As soon as I stepped on the Jubilee Line I could spot the Taylor Swift fans a mile off; cute outfits, long-limbed, fresh-faced and statement lipstick. Taylor’s London Squad are officially assembled and together they march in their masses, past numerous glitter makeup stalls and snake adorned glow sticks (more on that later), to the Reputation world tour.
Reputation is Taylor Swift’s sixth studio album and this performance is the first of two nights at Wembley Stadium. Taylor has had her fair share of controversy over the past three years since her 1989 album. From the ‘Swifties’ who love her and the Taylor-haters who, well don’t, Taylor has had a bumpy couple of years. But the Reputation Stadium Tour is here to put the record straight. Taylor Swift no longer cares what people say about her (well…at the very least she doesn’t care as much as she used to) and is out to have a good time with her fans.
Despite murmurings in the press that her world tour isn’t sold-out, the atmosphere in Wembley is buzzing and Taylor supporters are evidently nothing but dedicated and ready to have a good time. Adorned in costumes and tributes from various music videos, fans of all ages proudly carry homemade signs and dance in the aisles waiting for the night to begin.
In support are fellow girls of pop, Charli XCX and Camila Cabello. Charli XCX bursts onto the stage wearing a bubblegum pink, cagoule-meets-jumpsuit outfit, delivering a playful, high energy set. She bounces around the stage performing hits Boom Clap and I Love It (I Don’t Care). “You guys this is crazy” announces the pocket rocket from Cambridge, who seems delighted to be performing in such a huge venue in front of a home crowd. Break the Rules, Lucky, Boys and In the Morning follow, finishing with her massive 2014 hit, Fancy.
Charli’s energetic performance is followed by a sultry line-up from emerging solo artist Camila Cabello, who opts for a Moulin Rouge style outfit, bringing a taste of Fiesta Latina to Wembley. With a troupe of dancers and plenty of tousled hair flicking, Camila performs tracks such as Never Be The Same, She Loves Control and her number one hit, Havana. In between songs, Camila dances to the reggae-inspired mash-up of Hold Yuh / Get Busy, whilst lending her piano skills to a heartfelt performance of Consequences.
After a quick turnaround, finally the moment the Wembley Stadium had been waiting for. Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation aptly blasts from the stage following a video montage of critical press excerpts about Taylor Swift from over the years. The jumbotron screens in the centre of the stage part, and out struts a hooded Taylor in a sparkly, black, long-sleeved leotard and thigh-high boots to her album’s opening track …Ready for It? This is the start of a wonderfully aggressive and powerful set of songs where Taylor looks totally badass, but at the same time completely charming and clearly delighted to be on stage. A difficult look to pull off, but Swift nails it.
A revengeful, all-female line up of I Did Something Bad wows the stadium, complete with burning hot fireballs and fireworks from the roof of the stage. An explosion of fire and fury. Now is probably the time to explain ‘the snakes’. Video snakes, inflatable snakes and snake-inspired outfits are almost everywhere (thanks to an alleged feud over social media between Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift). Not a great motif for those of us with a snake phobia, but a powerful theme which reincarnates itself in various forms throughout the show.
After this fiery (quite literally) introduction, the mood mellows, and Taylor complements the audience on how beautiful everyone looks. The stadium is alight with thousands of glowing wristbands (think Coldplay Xylobands) that are given to fans on arrival as ‘a present from Taylor’. “You look more than beautiful, you all look…Gorgeous” purrs Taylor, which segues into a rendition of Gorgeous followed by a medley of classic hits Style / Love Story / You Belong with Me. The atmosphere notably softens, the snakes have momentarily disappeared, and fans sing along adoringly to Taylor’s signature love songs. This is classic Taylor and her fans love it.
Badass Taylor isn’t gone for long though, and soon a golden platform of snakes enter centre stage with Taylor surrounded by leather-clad dancers who perform Look What You Made Me Do. The setting is reminiscent of the style and costuming of Game Of Thrones with Taylor in a black and gold dress, clutching a serpent adorned, diamanté microphone, strutting the stage, dodging giant cobras on the screens behind her.
Fan favourite End Game is followed by King Of My Heart, which sees giant gongs brought onto the main stage for a dramatic beat. After a speedy wardrobe change, Taylor emerges in a sequined, rainbow dress. She candidly shares her musing over the past few years about Reputation, and what it means.
Whilst singing Delicate, Taylor climbs into a golden orb, which takes her to the middle of the stadium where she sings the much-loved Shake It Off with Charlie XCX and Camilla Cabello. The stadium is awash with colour and their performance has all the joy and fun of an Austin Powers style dance ensemble.
Rainbow confetti flutters from the sky and the mood changes once again with Taylor performing an acoustic set with her guitar: Dancing With Our Hands Tied and tour debut How You Get The Girl. The crowd know every single lyric and are clearly faithful to Taylor’s country-acoustic routes.
With two stern looking bodyguards behind her, Taylor dismounts her platform and walks through the crowd to the other side of the stadium where she performs Blank Space, before alighting another flying object (this time a snake skeleton) which takes her back to the main stage to perform Dress, Bad Blood / Should’ve Said No (you’ve guessed it, badass Taylor is back) and a rousing rendition of Don’t Blame Me. These songs demonstrate the 28-year-old’s aptitude for incredible lyrics, which makes her followers so loyal and her songs so catchy.
Taylor Swift and her fans clearly have mutual love for each other, which couldn’t be more obvious in the piano ballad Long Live / New Year’s Day. Taylor pauses during her performance, during which the audience applaud and stamp their feet for several minutes, “I don’t even know what to say because I’m so happy” says an overwhelmed Swift.
The final spectacle of the evening sees Taylor in a show-girl style sparkly dress and blazer where she sings Getaway Car before performing Slow Hands with surprise guest, Niall Horan of One Direction fame. The two seem genuinely happy in each other’s company, and fans are excited for a touch of boy band magic to the night’s proceedings.
Wrapping up the show, a fusion of We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together / This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things see Taylor and her dancers perform, whilst splashing around in an onstage fountain, to the backdrop of a Gatsby-style mansion house. The vibe is upbeat and a visual treat for the audience, who are reluctant to see the show come to an end.
Taylor Swift may have had a couple of rough years in the limelight, but what is clear from her Reputation Tour is that she has an amazing repertoire of songs, more sass than ever and her fans love her unconditionally, regardless of her reputation. Forget what people say Taylor, and just enjoy yourself!
Review of Taylor Swift at Wembley Stadium on 22nd June 2018 by Lucy Nagar. Photography by Kalpesh Patel.