Real life doesn’t play out like a full-colored picture-perfect storybook, but if anyone could make us believe in the love that exists only in those storybooks—and also in the real heartbreak that exists in both fantasy and reality—it’s Taylor Swift. At least for the two nights that her headlining Speak Now Tour headed to the HP Pavilion in San Jose, CA, that was the emotion that spurred on amongst more than 13,500 adoring fans.
Arena shows tend to be more about production value, and the Speak Now Tour was no exception. With its use of pyro and confetti and glitter machines, elaborate sets, multiple costume and hair changes, and a troupe of back-up dancers who also doubled/tripled as actors and acrobats, everything about the show could steal attention away from Swift’s still-limited (But better-sounding live than on TV) vocals. However, with everyone in the arena singing at the top of his or her lungs to every song—to a point where you would hear them more than you could hear her—it only proved the power of her music and the overwhelming admiration people have for what she contributes as an artist. Whether she sings about an ex-flame or a crush (Which is about 98 percent of the time), her best friend, or her band and her fans, Swift has written and performed tunes that people can resonate with, and these tunes have translated well into a large-scale stunner to provide the most enchanting escape.
After Josh Kelley performed as fans filled up the stadium and South Carolina band Needtobreathe opened as they all settled in, the red curtain opened to reveal the stage and Swift emerged from an underground platform to kick off with her explosive new single, “Sparks Fly.” After a couple more performances of singles from Speak Now, the set changes provided different but always breathtaking environments. A Southern home backdrop and porch was the stage for Swift’s most “country” songs performed, “Our Song” and “Mean.” Benches were set up to become a chapel and back-up performers in pastel dresses occupied them as a priest attempted to officiate a wedding, only to be interrupted by the title track. Ballerinas and waltzers introduced and elegantly danced through an “Enchanted” forest that later darkened and became “Haunted” as bells were rang.
In addition to her original tunes, Swift incorporated elements of others. Her heartwrenching, piano and strings driven “Back to December” became a little bit unexpectedly angry at the end with a mash-up of One Republic‘s “Apologize” and her own “You’re Not Sorry.” “Fearless” on ukulele was perfect opportunity to sprinkle in Train‘s “Hey Soul Sister” and Jason Mraz‘s “I’m Yours.” And to make every show special, Swift has done an acoustic cover of a different song at every tour date, by an artist from the area. Her first night featured a longer cover by the San Francisco-based Train, “Drops of Jupiter.” The second night in San Jose had her singing “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Berkeley boys Green Day.
Another element of the show that made fans feel extra special was the time she spent in the back of the arena, and the high-fives, handshakes, and hugs she quickly doled out as she walked the perimeter to get there and back to the main stage. For the acoustic portion of her concert, singing “Fearless,” “Last Kiss,” and the local covers, she sat on a rotating platform with a pretty lit-up tree and got a closer look at many of those who couldn’t see her up front. For the finale of “Love Story,” she spread more love around the arena, embarking on a balcony-like platform that lifted her and encircled the venue as she sang her hit single off her monster award-winning album Fearless.
The glitz of Swift’s spectacular Broadway-esque production can not be denied, but underneath it all is simply the hopelessly endearing yet honest and heartfelt music that fans have always sang along with and likely have related to in some way. The visuals that have come along with it through the Speak Now Tour—and the way Swift lovingly performed it in person—only made them fall harder in and with love and life, even if only for a night (or two). For the girl herself and those who watched her, it was a section in that storybook that ended with optimism and the hope that perhaps the next one would be just as beautiful.
(Thank you to my dear sister and dear best friend who I attended the shows with for taking these photos and allowing me to feature them here! Please credit them and give them love.)
Taylor Swift – Speak Now World Tour 2011 in San Jose (09.01.11) (credit: Monica Datangel)
Taylor Swift – Speak Now World Tour in San Jose (09.02.11) (credit: Nicole Abalde)
- “Sparks Fly”
- “The Story of Us”
- “Our Song”
- “Back to December”
- “Better Than Revenge”
- “Speak Now”
- “Last Kiss”
- “Drops of Jupiter” (Train cover – Thursday night) / “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” (Green Day cover – Friday night)
- “You Belong With Me”
- “Dear John”
- “Long Live”
- “Love Story”