Live Review: Taylor Swift at Hyde Park

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Originally published on The Edge on 29/06/15.

Following the huge, world-conquering success of her first fully-fledged pop album 1989, recently anointed global superstar Taylor Swift took centre stage on the Saturday slot for this year’s British Summertime.

Held once again in the heart of London’s Hyde Park, the week-long attraction culminated in Swift’s sell-out show, boasting one of the biggest crowds of her career – a daunting task for even the most celebrated of performers. Not that she would ever have you believe it though.

Exploding onto the main Great Oak stage amidst a horde of scantily-clad men, the affectionately titled ‘TayTay’ herself seemed initially almost completely un-phased by the sheer scale of the event, firing off note-perfect renditions of album favourites ‘Welcome to New York’ and ‘Blank Space’. Complete with props, dancers, and a frankly ridiculous amount of costume-changes, it becomes clear very quickly that Swift has stepped up her performance game to meet her new pop persona, as she ducks and dives over an extended stage through a crowd of screaming onlookers. It’s the stuff dreams are made of, the very epitome of musical spectacle. And yet, it somehow doesn’t feel quite right, at least at first.

As she reels off hit after hit from her latest record – each matched perfectly with a flawless dance routine over an artsy backdrop – one can’t help but feel that the hopeless romanticism that made that young starry-eyed country singer such a stand-out performer, is slowly leaking away. But then, as if out of nowhere, like such a thought has been neatly picked up through some bizarre telepathic link, something really quite magical happens.

Ditching her dancers and taking to a levitating platform, pushing her further into the growing crowd of onlookers, Swift begins to talk. No music, no agendas, she just chats – as if, in her own words she’s simply “hanging out” with 65,000 of her friends. Stood tall amidst hordes of her ever-loving fans, Swift moves through her ideas on love and identity and, as cheesy and preachy as the cynically-minded may find it, it’s really quite special.

Suddenly, it’s as if one of London’s largest music venues has been somehow morphed into Swift’s own front-room; this colossal crowd is united. Then, as the sun begins to slowly set over Hyde Park, the star mans a keyboard and crosses the emotional plain, breaking into her much-loved original chart-topper ‘Love Story’. The crowd – without exaggeration – lose their shit. Arm in arm, they chant every single word of the song’s lyrics with both hazy nostalgia and pure, unabashed romantic glee; there is nothing quite like it. The connection between Swift and her fans is unparalleled; somehow she has made one of the biggest gigs of the year also one of the most intimate.

The second that final note plays, Swift breaks into a dorky grin and it instantly becomes clear that that dreamy young American girl never left, she simply evolved. The ridiculous props and the over-egged choreography are but staples of the world she has broken into – a world that she is still stunned and proud to finally be a part of. It’s like watching the class nerd finally be accepted by the “cool kids”.

And so, even when she returns to that original sequinned get-up to belt out more album favourites, from the delectable ‘I Know Places’ to the positively joyful ‘How You Get the Girl’, the crowd never seems to forget that moment that the fully-fledged starlet shut off her pop princess persona and let the whole world in. Underneath all the glitz and the glamour, she’s still just Taylor.   

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