BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
A lucky few got to attend an intimate private party to celebrate Taylor Swift on Saturday (Sept. 26) backstage at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
A small living-room sized area was tented in the rehearsal hall and furnished with beige couches and cocktail tables. Décor also included glass cases containing some of the pop superstar’s costumes. A photo booth was in one corner.
Taylor’s publicist is Tree Paine. She invited her fellow Recording Academy board members to the soiree. Among those accepting were Daniel Hill, Erika Wollam Nichols & Roger Nichols, Jeff Balding, and LeAnn Phelan.
Trey Fanjoy brought Anastasia Brown as her “date.” Phil Thornton brought Taj Johnson-George, who is not only a member of the Grammy-nominated SWV and a 2009 Survivor competitor, but turns out to be a major Taylor Swift fan. She told Taylor that she follows her religiously on social media.
Lisa Harless brought her niece. Julian King, Lori Badgett and Ben Fowler brought their daughters. For Ben’s 10-year-old, it was her first concert, ever.
Taylor greeted each person individually, easily making small talk, especially with the little girls. She autographed a photo for each attendee, personalizing every one. We also each got a souvenir photo with the pop princess.
She joked with Taj that she thought she could take her on. Taylor may have the height, but my money’s on Taj’s Survivor toughness.
Bart Herbison presented Taylor with five No. 1 plaques from the Nashville Songwriters Association. All of them were for songs from her triumphant, eight-million-selling pop collection 1989.
“C’mon, y’all, Yay for Taylor!” he exhorted. We cheered with pleasure.
“Where’s the camera? Let’s take a picture,” said the delighted star.
“It’s my first pop album, but I took my Nashville songwriting sensibilities into the sessions with me,” she added. “That’s what Nashville taught me.
“Thank you for coming to my show. I know how busy you are. You are people I admire and respect so much. Thank you for wanting to spend your Saturday night with me.”
She served us light refreshments and soft drinks. Then momma Andrea Swift took everyone on a backstage tour of the mammoth production. The kids were completely saucer eyed.
On our way into Taylor’s “homecoming” show, we encountered such other fabulons as Victoria Shaw, Peter Cooper, Brandon Heath and Nashville Recording Academy board president Shannon Sanders.
We walked into a concert atmosphere that was deliriously joyous. The audience at a Taylor Swift show is almost as entertaining as the show, itself, with its costumes, homemade signs, battery-powered holiday lights, tutus, headdresses, cat outfits, Taylor-inspired couture and sparkles everywhere. The crowd is simply adorable.
Here’s another cool thing. Taylor’s songs mean so much to them. They sang along to every single lyric of every single song.
Most of the shows on the 1989 Tour have featured surprise celebrity guests. Saturday night’s included two of the greatest, living legend Mick Jagger and awesome vocal phenom Leona Lewis. Taylor rocked “Satisfaction” with the former and sang a soaring rendition of 2008’s No. 1 pop smash “Bleeding Love” with the latter.
The crowd sang, too, and roared deafeningly as each was announced. Jagger wasn’t a surprise to the “lucky few,” since we’d glimpsed him briefly in a hallway backstage. (Friday’s concert featured appearances by Steven Tyler, Kelsea Ballerini and Alison Krauss). The crowd greeted opening acts Vance Joy and Haim with equal enthusiasm.
“Nashville….you have never looked as beautiful as you do, 15,000-strong, on a Saturday night,” said Taylor to the sold-out audience. “I feel like tonight is going to be the crowd of all crowds. And I really want it to be worth your while.”
The concert mainly consisted of material from 1989. She opened with “Welcome to New York,” for instance. But she also offered a few tunes from her years as a country act – “Fifteen” and “Love Story” – plus “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
The set pieces were simpler than on the Red Tour. A massive video screen backed the three-tiered stage. Twelve athletic male dancers accompanied most songs.
There were nine costume changes. This was sometimes accomplished because of female-empowerment and self-actualization video testimonials from Taylor buddies such as Lena Dunham and Selena Gomez.
A long, long runway extended almost the entire length of the Bridgestone. It rose 20-feet into the air and then rotated like a propeller blade over the audience. Taylor strutted fearlessly on it, in high heels. I wouldn’t walk that elevated thing on a dare, even in sneakers.
But the coolest effect was the light-up bracelet that was taped to every seat in the house. You put it on, and throughout the show, unseen forces made it change color – white, red, green, pink, blue, turquoise – depending on the mood of the song. This synchronized coordination resulted in the lovely vision of the crowd becoming a celestial galaxy.
“You’ve been so generous to me tonight,” said Taylor, “so welcoming, so open.
“I am having such a good time….Getting to hang out with you for two-and-a-half hours is going to be a memory for me. You make me so happy.
“Nashville, I’m going to ask you to sing one last time with me tonight,” she said before beginning the gloriously synth-throbbing “Out of the Woods.” Confetti rained down on our heads as the song reached its crescendo.
Of course it wasn’t the end. We rocked out to the “Shake It Off” finale as even more tons of confetti descended on our heads from the girders.
If you didn’t have a good time, you had to be made of lead.