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Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour reprise is a markedly theatrical return

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Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour kicked off its European leg in Paris, France at the La Défense Arena on May 9. The tour resumed after a two-month-long break in which Swift released her 11th studio album, “The Tortured Poets Department.”

The tour, which began with a U.S. leg in March 2023, is a live concert celebration of her entire music career, with a setlist composed of nine thematic sets for each of her albums, except her 2006 self-titled debut. Between March of 2023 and 2024, Swift performed sets for albums up until her 2022 release, “Midnights.” Still, the announcement and release of her latest album have left many wondering how, or even if, she would incorporate her newest work into the already three-and-a-half hour long show. 

The show began with several immediate departures from the previous leg of the tour, including an altered intro and a cut song from the opening “Lover” set. Fans were quick to catch on to a significant change coming when certain album sets moved forward in the setlist and two combined. 

Attendees expected the acoustic surprise song set to commence following the “1989” set, but were met instead by displays of fluttering paper flourishes reminiscent of visuals from Swift’s recent “Fortnight” music video. Dancers filed down the catwalk stage before Swift rose through the floor to open the “Tortured Poets Department” set with a jovial performance of “But Daddy I Love Him.”

Swift transitioned into a performance of “So High School,” a song widely believed to be about her partner, Travis Kelce. The performance referenced the red and gold of the Kansas City Chiefs, the football team for which Kelce plays tight end, through flashing colored spotlights and LED bracelets worn by attendees. Swift and the backup dancers sat atop makeshift bleachers and “swag surfed,” an homage to the dance that has become a tradition for fans at Chiefs home games.

Swift then moved on to an angrily impassioned performance of “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” where she glided across the stage on a mirrored platform. She remained on the platform for a shortened version of the alien abduction-inspired “Down Bad,” before transitioning to a performance of the album’s lead single, “Fortnight.” The set pieces, costumes and choreography drew from the asylum-inspired visuals of the song’s music video.

Swift then donned a military jacket and began a soldier’s march, complete with an accompanying drumline, for the next song, “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived.” Lights flashed red as Swift acted out her death by faux gunshots, crumpling to the stage floor as she sang out the last lines.

The final song of the set was by far the most theatrically enthusiastic. Swift was dragged up from her stage death and stripped of her white corseted gown for an onstage costume change. The transition into the next song was filled with a swing jazz instrumental of the ensuing “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart,” and exaggerated motions straight from an early 20th century silent film. 

The song, which reflects Swift’s experience as she embarked on the tour fresh out of a 6-year relationship last March, was performed as meta-dramatically as possible, indicative of the theatrics she was putting on in the early months of the tour. The choreography for this particular number also echoes that of earlier songs in the established setlist, reminding the audience that this is truly the “fake it til you make it” anthem of the show.

The highly anticipated acoustic surprise song set followed, which included some fun references to the tour stop. This set included the aptly named “Paris” on acoustic guitar on the first night. The final night in the city included a mashup on the piano of “Paris” once more and “Begin Again,” a song for which Swift filmed a music video in the city in 2013.

Swift went on to dub the newest rendition of the show “Female Rage The Musical” in an Instagram post following the tour’s four-day stint in Paris. The dramatism of the small stage was brought to an audience of over 42,000 each night at La Défense.

Throughout the night, Swift debuted new costumes for each set, excluding “reputation.” The old pinks, blues and purples of the “Lover” set’s sequin bodysuits were traded for neon orange and deep magenta. Longtime fans recognized a revamped version of a black, silver and gold dress worn on Swift’s 2009 Fearless Tour. The cool muted hues of the “folklore” set’s draped gowns turned a buttery yellow on May 9 and a vibrant raspberry on May 10 when the set was spliced with the “evermore” set. The “1989” set’s monochrome fringed skirt and bandeau ensemble swapped silhouettes and turned two-toned in different colorways for each of the four Paris shows. 

Despite Swift’s newest release being arguably her most melancholic, the newest iteration of the Eras Tour is remarkably more upbeat than what was seen prior. The new album is incredibly vulnerable, and thus it seems that releasing it has taken the burden of private emotional turmoil off Swift’s shoulders. 

Her prior “Midnights” release seemed to be a breakup album in disguise, but “The Tortured Poets Department” is earnest in its narration of heartbreak, rebellion, anxiety and, finally, healing. The overwhelmingly exuberant additions like “So High School,” “But Daddy I Love Him” and the ever-confident “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” show a positive turn for Swift that should be a joy to see throughout the rest of the European leg this summer and the North American Leg later this fall.

Swift will continue the Eras Tour on May 24 in Lisbon, Portugal at the Estádio da Luz. 


Camille Robinson is an Arts & Entertainment Intern for the spring 2024 quarter. She can be reached at camilllr@uci.edu.