Taylor Swift's doing better than she ever was.
The singer took her sold-out Reputation Stadium Tour to Philadelphia over the weekend, which the Reading, Pennsylvania, native treated as her de facto hometown shows, and she delivered what is undoubtedly the best tour of her career.
In a two-hour set that included songs from all six of her studio albums, Swift took the crowd on a journey throughout her record-breaking career with an emphasis on her most recent effort, reputation, that simultaneously gave fans of all ages what they wanted, while also keeping us -- and, as she'd learn, even herself -- on our toes. Just as often as she lobbed up something totally unsurprising ("Look What You Made Me Do" followed by "End Game"), she would then unexpectedly meld two hits released nearly a decade apart ("Bad Blood" and "Should've Said No") into a mashup of our dreams.
Swift rose like like a phoenix from the ashes when she released reputation last fall after over a year of near radio silence, and, though she proclaimed "the Old Taylor" dead on the album's lead single, the Reputation Stadium Tour proves that she may have just taken a little hiatus. After opening the show with era-defining jams "...Ready For It?" and "I Did Something Bad," Swift turned to career-defining hits "Style," "Love Story" and "You Belong With Me" to really capture the crowd and fully remind us of her most timeless moments that we've all cherished for so long.
This isn't the "Old Taylor" coming back to steal the crown from "New Taylor" -- neither is it the savage "New Taylor" overshadowing "Old Taylor" with her fierce attitude; this is a Taylor Swift that is finally acknowledging and embracing the fact that both "New Taylor" and "Old Taylor" can coexist in 2018, which is a beautiful thing to witness in a football stadium full of women and girls of all ages who have -- and will -- come of age with Swift's music soundtracking their lives.
Perhaps the most impressive moment of the second night of Swift's stop in Philadelphia over the weekend came while the singer was performing "Delicate," perched on a flying stage. Midway through the song, when the basket-shaped stage hadn't moved at all after having been out of view to have the stadium for nearly two minutes, Swift revealed that she was "stuck."
"I'm pretty sure I'm stuck up here. It's a nice view, though," she said with her signature laugh. "So what you just saw was me going like straight up and down in this sparkly basket. It's supposed to take me to the other side of the stadium. So what happens now is basically I'm just chilling waiting to figure out what happens next."
It was here that Swift showed her prowess for understanding her fans more than perhaps any other artist in pop music, something that she has proven time and again throughout her career. In response to the technical difficulty, Swift performed not one but two fan-favorite songs that she had left off of her nightly setlist: "Our Song" and "Wildest Dreams."
With the technical mishap behind her (she got to her B-stage via her other flying stage, because when you're Taylor Swift you naturally have two of those), the singer continued to self-assuredly make her way through the likes of "Shake It Off," "Blank Space," "Don't Blame Me" and her most recent album's sole ballad, "New Year's Day," which she gorgeously melded with Speak Now standout, "Long Live."
Smiling her way through the final act of her set, which included reputation highlights "Getaway Car" and "Call It What You Want," Swift proclaimed in the latter song's lyrics that she's "doing better than I ever was." And, for maybe the first time, it was a believable proclamation. For someone whose personal life was once making headlines on a near-daily basis, Swift seems much more at ease and content now -- sharing less in the day-to-day with the general public, but baring her soul on stage in front of the people that really care. Before seeing her live for the first time this quieter era, it was difficult to grasp where she stood -- but it's clear that the singer has struck a perfect balance for herself.
On the 1989 Tour, Swift built her own house of cards by bringing out an A-list guest to join her on stage at every single stop. It was a move that created insurmountable expectations and contributed to the overall public perception that perhaps she was trying too hard. 1989 may have been her best album, but it was in that era that Swift got too eager, too exposed and, maybe, too out of touch.
The singer started her show wearing a black sequined look that has become her go-to performance ensemble since the fall, but her outfits slowly starting to incorporate more color throughout the show, including a rainbow-striped mini dress and a purple fringe look that she ended the show singing "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things" in. The gradual move into colorful looks certainly wasn't accidental on Swift's part -- nothing really is -- and provided for the pitch-perfect metaphor for where Swift is headed after her public persona had taken a bit of a beating in the past couple of years.
After retreating from the public eye, reassessing and putting out another record-breaking album, Swift came back with a vengeance this past year, but it's the Reputation Stadium Tour that proves that it's that exact vengeance that she doesn't necessarily need anymore. She did something bad, she's not sorry and she's ready to move on.
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