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I Survived Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour

Spanning 17 years of hits over a three-and-a-half-hour set, the cultlike reverence of Swifties is almost more impressive to behold than the show itself. 

by Ben Boddez

The time was November 2022, and if you wanted to grab tickets to Taylor Swift’s three-and-a-half-hour, career-spanning retrospective that is the Eras Tour, you might have needed to break out some Excel spreadsheets.

In a chaotic free-for-all that ultimately saw a lawsuit levelled against Ticketmaster for being completely ill-equipped to handle fan demands for the shows (there never was a real ‘sale’ – the lucky ones who received presale codes bought up all the tickets before the general on-sale even started), a dedicated group of fourteen Swifties all woke up to brave the dreaded Ticketmaster queue together, frantically messaging in a group chat all the while.

Only three of us managed to get through to the ticket-purchasing screen, but we came out of the experience that Swift equated to going through “several bear attacks” unscathed. Enough tickets were acquired for all, making us Seattle-bound for a rare Eras Tour Sunday night show on July 23rd. It was something that Swift herself pointed out during her set, marvelling at her rapturous crowd of 72 thousand at Lumen Field going so hard that it literally set off earthquake alarms.

The tour itself is a truly Herculean effort – with 131 shows spanning nearly a year and a half already announced and more expected to come (we’re still waiting on those elusive Canadian dates), there’s been a lot of speculation online about whether Swift has in fact been replaced with an unbreakable machine of some sort as she performs a 45-song setlist with elaborate choreography each night without any major hiccups. Not to mention still making frequent trips to the recording studio to complete her latest, Speak Now (Taylor’s Version). That being said, the borderline cultish behaviour surrounding it is almost even more interesting to witness in person.

The first sign that the shows might resemble a church of sorts more than a concert came from a move that continued to herald Swift’s status as the greatest self-marketer in the music business. Performing two exclusive, “secret” songs every show consisting of deep-cuts and fan favourites, it had our group (and everyone else online) checking for updates during every single show, mourning lost favourites and speculating on the ones left over every time “Secret Song O’Clock” rolled around.

Even city mayors got in on the Swiftian reverence, with nearly every city performing some kind of official symbolic gesture – whether it was city name changes like “Swiftieapolis” or “Swiftsburgh,” keys to the city or official holidays toasting to her impact – after all, it was recently reported that every tour stop boosts the local economy by nearly $50 million. Seattle’s, however, must have been boosted further than that on a weekend that escalated the crowds and the chaos even more.

Taking place on the same weekend that the Toronto Blue Jays – a team with a huge handful of fans from all over Canada – faced off against the local Seattle Mariners and music festival Capitol Hill Block Party kicked off on the other side of town, border wait times extended to five hours and prompted some cars in our group to leave as early as 4:30 a.m. While actually in the city, a convergence of fans clogged the streets as Swifties marched towards the arena at the same time baseball enthusiasts were marching the other way in a mass exodus. Once inside, looking down at the sea of fans waiting to get into the building was a staggering sight to behold.

When able to see a large cross-section of the attending fans in the same place, it was hard to ignore just how much of it was dotted with pink. Either many fans were recycling their Barbie outfits for the Eras Tour, or quite a few had dressed themselves up in the style of Swift’s 2019 Lover album, which is recently experiencing a resurgence in popularity to the tune of sending longstanding fan favourite “Cruel Summer” to the Billboard Top 10 years later due to it being the first “era” Taylor revisits during the show.

Elaborate Eras Tour fits were found everywhere you looked, ranging from sparkly cowboy hats for her earliest work, cottage-core clothing for her folksier pandemic diversions, and the classic red lipstick that she donned during her initial pop crossover. Mostly, the colour scheme simply had to match one of the distinct colours associated with each of her ten eras – another stroke of marketing genius.

It wasn’t only the outfits on display, either. Another fan tradition played out in real time as strangers approached each other to trade “friendship bracelets” – handmade bracelets of beads and lettering that often spelled out Swift’s song titles or personal favourite lyrics. I was personally handed one reading “Jack Antoff,” misspelling the name of her most frequent producer, in exchange for my “Lavender Haze,” a reference to one of her recent singles.

The numerous rituals continued as the show began, making this less initiated fan feel similar to when I was dragged to church as a child, stunned that all of the attendees knew each of the hundreds of songs and trademark responses to the preacher’s words by heart. From chants that have followed her for years like “1, 2, 3, let’s go bitch” to kick off “Delicate” to newer additions like extending applause as long as possible after a certain song or lighting up the stands during evermore track “marjorie,” a tribute to Swift’s late grandmother, it felt like every era had its own fan tradition – mostly small, but echoed by a football field’s worth of fans.  

Despite some chicken tenders, fries, and a sparkling water that totaled 37 Canadian dollars, witnessing the full-scale production and marvelling at just how many songs I’ve absorbed all of the lyrics simply by hearing them repeatedly over the years – despite being a relatively new superfan, coming aboard after the undeniability of 2020’s folklore – made it a tour for the ages.

Swift is often touted as the stadium-status star who is the best at making every seat in the house a great one, with massive set-pieces, visual stunts and dancers making it a spectacle that fills an entire football field. As each era shifted to the next – like the house associated with Lover burning to the ground as evermore trees sprouted up, the arena being invaded by snakes for Reputation, or a spangled acoustic guitar being projected onto the stage for Fearless – Swift followed suit with outfit changes and never looked worse for wear, always cheerfully engaging with the crowd through extended speeches and still looking genuinely spellbound at her success.

By the time the show closed with latest single “Karma” and an extended fireworks display, the crowd had witnessed a full 210-minute reminder of how and why Swift became the megastar she is today. Ticking all of the boxes – whether it comes to marketing, presentation, showmanship, the kind of natural talent to breeze through 45 tunes still sounding great, or a songwriting ability that’s been praised since her teenage years, it left an exhausted group eager to join in on a widespread, impromptu singalong of “Love Story” while slowly exiting the arena and trekking back to our hostel still talking about our favourite songs, eras, and moments. Consider the Eras Tour survived.