Taylor Swift events are usually measured in terms of size. The millions of album sales, the billions of streams, the sheer enormity of her all-conquering Reputation Stadium Tour. Swift, of course, has always managed to make even such gigantic experiences personal and relatable. But at the first full live show of her new era, pop’s reigning colossus flips the script, as the acoustic ‘surprise’ songs of the Rep tour become the show-stopping centrepieces of Lover’s Parisian coming out party.
Because, while Swift notes with some pride that tonight’s show at the beautiful old L’Olympia theatre is attended by fans from 37 different countries, this show is less about scale and more about scope. Not just because the venue is so much smaller than anywhere she’s played in years, but because Swift does what no other star of her wattage would dare to attempt: strip away the stadium-sized artifice and let her music speak for itself.
So there are no giant inflatable snakes or flying stages here, just Swift’s luminescent presence and the greatest pop songs of her generation.
It’s more than enough. She steps out to the irrepressible perk of Me! and the already-feverish atmosphere created by an audience of competition winners – none of whom have paid much heed to the central instruction of You Need To Calm Down – explodes like the lurid paint splashes on the big screen behind her. The lengthy ovation at its conclusion – repeated at the end of every song – genuinely seems to take Swift aback as she gasps a heartfelt thank you to “Paree”.
She follows up with two more solid gold bangers in the form of Blank Space and I Knew You Were Trouble, both blessed with choruses the size of the Champs-Élysées, but tonight is also, gloriously, about more intimate moments. She talks the crowd through the joys of writing songs both old (an effervescent Love Story) and new (a sublime The Archer). She quietly circumnavigates Reputation (represented only by an enthusiastically received Delicate), but the hidden depths of Lover – the first fruit of her ground-breaking new deal with Republic – are spotlighted via a brilliant acoustic interlude.
For a while, Swift could be back in Nashville’s Bluebird Café as she sits on a stool and strums her way beatifically through Death By A Thousand Cuts, Cornelia Street and The Man, attacking her guitar on the latter as if it were the patriachy itself. She then switches to piano (and, by the way, only Swift’s audience could be sent into raptures by someone wheeling on a baby grand) for a heart-wrenching, ebb-and-flow segue between All Too Well, Red and the new album’s Daylight, songcraft and showmanship in perfect harmony.
Her full band returns for Style and You Need To Calm Down before she dons another, artwork-compatible acoustic for a stirring rendition of the new album’s title track. And while she ends with a joyous Shake It Off that has even the numerous music biz execs on the balcony up and dancing, it’s the lyrics to Lover that strike a chord.
“Can we always be this close?” Swift sings. She’s singing about love, of course, but it’s given added poignancy by the rare proximity of her audience. The crowds will no doubt get further away as the Lover era progresses and the shows get bigger but, of all today's pop behemoths, Swift has the songs to reduce that distance. And for those who cherish the torch singer Taylor Swift every bit as much as the super-sized stadium-smasher, well, we’ll always have Paris.
I Knew You Were Trouble
Death By A Thousand Cuts
All Too Well
You Need To Calm Down
Shake It Off
PHOTO: Dave Hogan