hen Taylor Swift brought Natalie Maines of Dixie Chicks on stage to sing "Goodbye Earl," it meant more than just another star guest, on an already celebrity-packed, five-night attendance record-breaking Los Angeles concert run. This duet also brought into clear focus the truth that Swift's huge success unintentionally fulfilled the promise first suggested by Dixie Chicks back in the '90s, which was the attracting of young, enthusiastic and loyal young girls to the country music table.
Granted, one cannot honestly describe the music Swift makes today as country. However, if she learned one significant lesson from her days in the country music market, it's that forming a solid bond with your fans is the absolute best career move one can ever make. And that tight artist-fan connection was on prominent display throughout Swift's entertaining 2 ½- hour concert.
Swift has been playing almost the exactly same set of songs throughout this "1989" tour, but with her practice of bringing up special guests each night - particularly in star-stocked cities like New York and Los Angeles - makes every concert unique. In addition to performing with Maines fairly early on, Swift also sang "You Oughta Know" with Alanis Morissette and had the mugging, sparkly-outfitted Ellen Degenres walk the catwalk during "Style."
It was heartening to see this young audience - with some girls in the crowd not even close to their teen years yet - introduced to Morissette gut-level honest music. Swift rightly pointed out that her own songwriting style may not have ever been possible and so popular, had Morisssette not first blazed a trail before her.
The excited anticipation for Swift's appearance at about 9 o'clock was palpable - even for longtime concert-goers. Swift is not just a singer and a songwriter; she is also one of the biggest celebrities on our celebrity-obsessed planet. This was not just another concert; this was a grand event.
When the concert began with "Welcome to New York," complete with big, bold, black and white on-screen images of that iconic east coast metropolis, as well as a large cast of dancers, the audience was clued in that this show would contain all dramatic elements found in the sorts of shows regularly running on the famed Broadway referenced in these visuals.
It was great fun to see Swift's various stage sets and costumes throughout the night, but when the artist performed "Fifteen" atop a riser looming high above the audience and armed only with an acoustic guitar, she achieved a sort of intimacy you might not think possible in such a large arena. She next moved to the other end of the riser where a keyboard was attached, to accompany herself for "Clean." While introducing each of these songs, Swift gave little inspirational talks to her fans. She spoke encouragingly, and there was no doubt she sincerely meant every word.
Swift finished her show once again on that hovering, slowly spinning platform accompanied by her dancers for a concert-ending dance-off to "Shake It Off." It can't be easy being Taylor Swift in our tabloid-infected world. Heck, it's not easy being just a regular person during these complicated days. However, Swift was able to let loose and just shake it all off, and vicariously, so could we.
Haim preceded Swift with a short set packed with plenty of instrumental firepower. This sisterly act wasted no time in proving they could - as promised - turn Staples Center into a jam session.
Vance Joy opened the night with an acoustically-centered set of songs, including the hit "Riptide," which had the arena early birds singing right along.
Naturally, there's a whole lot of hype that gets attached to the pop queen Taylor Swift. But without question, this queen more than lived up to her crown tonight.