Taylor Swift only got one full headlining show in to promote her “Lover” album before the coronavirus pandemic came down, causing all the stadium shows she had planned for this year to be pushed at least into 2021. Fortunately for fans, that lone gig was filmed for posterity, and ABC will air portions of it this month as an hour-long special, the network announced Friday.
“Taylor Swift City of Lover Concert,” which will air May 17 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, was shot September 9, 2019 at L’Olympia Theater in Paris, a historic hall with a capacity of about 2000. The show was billed as a chance for contest winners from 37 countries to be flown in to see Swift offer live premieres of songs from the “Lover” album, which at that time was only two weeks old.
The special will immediately follow the season finale of “American Idol” and be made available the following day on demand, on Disney+ and on Hulu.
“While we are all home, Taylor Swift and her family of fans will be able to have a moment together and experience a never-before-seen, intimate performance,” said Eric Avram, ABC Entertainment’s VP of talent and booking, vice president, “and we are so thrilled to be able to offer this to our own family of viewers on ABC.”
Fans had speculated for the last eight months about where and when the footage from the Paris show would be put to use. It was assumed that a release might wait until after Swift had fulfilled her concert dates this summer, which were to include everything from a first-time appearance at England’s Glastonbury Festival to a two-night stand at L.A.’s yet-to-be-completed SoFi Stadium. With all her dates pushed out of 2020, the ABC special will be the one chance for fans to see any kind of real set from her this year.
Not all of the material she played in Paris is likely to make it into the one-hour special, since setlists from the L’Olympia performance show she played a full 76-minute set. One song from the show, a version of “The Man” performed with just an acoustic guitar, was already released as a music video in February.
Other songs from the set fans might hope to see included in ABC’s special include similar solo acoustic performances of “Death by a Thousand Cuts” and “Cornelia Street,” or several songs that had Swift behind the piano, like the recent album’s “Daylight” and older songs “Red” and “All Too Well.” But much of the show featured a full band and four dancers — if not the massive sets that fans saw on the “Reputation” tour two years ago — regaling contest winners with oldies like “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “Blank Space” coming up alongside new cuts like “ME!” and “The Archer.”
An NME review of the Paris concert quoted Swift as saying, “There are a lot of the songs on this album that’s just come out that I’ve never played live before, and I was thinking about how I’d really like to play some of these songs for the very first time. And I was thinking maybe the best way to do it would be just playing the songs acoustic the way that I wrote them.” NME’s critic concluded, “Both a thank you to her fanbase and a celebration of how far Swift has come since releasing her debut album over a decade ago, The City of Lover concert was a triumph.”
“No pyros, elevators, walkways. No guest vocalists, costume changes, or intense choreography,” wrote The Face’s critic in a 4/5 review. “Just a bare stage, six musicians, four backing vocalists, 76 minutes and 16 songs – which is less songs and just a shade longer than ‘Lover’ itself. On a monochrome stage setting, all black and white and silvery, the only pop of colour was the slash of red of Swifty’s lipstick. Tay Tay à la théâtre: everything, and everyone, needed to calm down, because this was Swift the writer, singer and performer going back to basics. Forget the more glacial, clap-back edge to the ‘Reputation’-era artist; tonight it was time to cut loose.”
Swift going with ABC for the special marks a different approach for Swift than her two most recent broadcast specials, the “Miss Americana” documentary in late January and the “Reputation” tour special at the end of 2018, both of which ended up being major event programming for Netflix. Variety‘s cover story on Swift in conjunction with the Sundance premiere of “Miss Americana” can be read here.