At one point during the first show of her long-awaited, highly anticipated Eras tour on Friday night (Mar. 17), Taylor Swift described herself as “really overwhelmed, and trying to keep it together all night.” It’s easy to understand: this enormous stadium trek, one of pop’s hottest tickets in years, also happens to be Swift’s first proper tour in five years, thanks primarily to the pandemic. The pop superstar has released a whopping four original albums (plus two re-recorded ones) since last hitting the road, and on Friday night at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., she told the crowd that she had been dreaming about this day — the day that she could finally perform this wealth of new material — for a long time.
“Overwhelming” would also be an apt way to describe the sheer tonnage of the Eras tour: with segments dedicated to all 10 of Swift’s studio albums, the show entertained a sold-out, frequently screaming stadium audience for 3 hours and 15 minutes, as Swift tirelessly showcased her skill set and various artistic personas across a whopping 44 songs. The most dominant artist in popular music has used this live run to reflect on the various iterations of her career to date, and the achievement is often staggering, with costume changes, set-piece upheaval, vulnerable moments in a crowd of thousands and sing-alongs that will rival the scope of any tour this year.
The Eras tour is going to satisfy a lot of Swift diehards in the coming months, who will surely find their own favorite pockets of the set list. And while Swift fans should embrace the entire experience, the opening night provided some clear-cut highlights. Here are the 13 best moments from the Eras tour kickoff in Glendale on Friday night:
The Cathartic Opening of “Cruel Summer”
Although Swift technically opened the show with part of a different Lover track, “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince,” the brilliant synth-pop single “Cruel Summer” was the first to get the full, stadium-show treatment, complete with a raised platform, backup dancers and Swift unveiling a diamond-encrusted one-piece with matching tall boots. For both the fans in attendance and Swift herself, the song seemed to represent an exhalation — this tour was finally happening, and this immaculate song, three-and-a-half years old at this point, was finally being performed.
The First Era-Hop, Into ‘Fearless’
“Tonight, we’re going to be going on an adventure, one era at a time!” Swift declared a few songs into the show — a concept that truly sunk in a few minutes later, when the first era of the evening, Lover, gave way to Fearless both in the set list and stylistically. Gone was the glitter getup and deep pop rhythms, replaced with a fringe dress and sunny country licks from Swift’s acoustic guitar, as she jumped into the Fearless title track, “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story.” The “Fearless” change-up marked the moment that the idea of the Eras tour fully snapped into place, and the crowd was enthralled with the approach.
Taylor’s ‘Evermore’ Defense
In the middle of the Evermore mini-set, Swift sat down at a moss-covered piano and talked to the audience about how gratifying it was that she was finally getting to perform her “four new members of the family” — Lover, Folklore, Evermore and Midnights, the four albums she’s released since her last tour. She added that Evermore “is an album I absolutely love — despite what some of you say on TikTok!” She paused for comic effect, then deadpanned, “I’ve seen it. I’ve seen all of it!” Even if some TikTok users haven’t warmed as much to Folklore’s counterpart, Swift gave Evermore prime placement in her set list, with a total of five songs performed from the album, including “’Tis The Damn Season,” “Willow” and “Tolerate It.”
The Unexpected “Don’t Blame Me” Showcase
When the Evermore part of the set ended and snake scales appeared on screen, everyone in attendance knew that Reputation was next up — and while singles like “…Ready For It?,” “Delicate” and “Look What You Made Me Do” were all delivered with high energy, “Don’t Blame Me” was bestowed with a fiery passion that, even compared to how its swooping harmonies were presented on the Reputation tour, elevated the album cut. Quite literally: Swift sprung skyward on a platform while attacking a big, showy note during the song’s climax, making for one of the more memorable technical performances of the evening.
“Enchanted” as the Dramatic ‘Speak Now’ Representative
It’s hard to quibble with set list exclusions when the set list in question contains 44 songs… but still, Speak Now are not going to be thrilled that the Eras tour contains only one song from that particular era. At least that song stood out as a highlight: “Enchanted” found Swift in a flowing ball gown maximizing the emotional stakes, with acoustic strums laying the groundwork for a full-band crescendo. If “Mine,” “Back to December,” “Mean” and “Dear John” aren’t getting any burn on this tour, “Enchanted” will have to be a powerhouse for the third-album diehards… and on opening night, it was just that.
The Extended Version of “All Too Well”…
After rolling through Red highlights like “22,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “I Knew You Were Trouble,” Swift spoke to the audience about how meaningful the success of both the original Red in 2012 and the re-recorded version in 2021 had been for her. Then, Swift asked if the crowd had an extra 10 minutes to spare. The chart-topping 10-minute version of “All Too Well” followed the roars in response, and naturally functioned as a centerpiece for the entire set, arriving roughly at the halfway point and becoming an emotional anchor for the evening. By the time that paper snowflakes fell across the stadium during the final minute, the magic of the moment was widely accepted.
…And the Three-Word Shout-Along Within “All Too Well”
When you attend a Taylor Swift show in 2023 (and beyond), you simply will not experience a bigger sing-along moment than the phrase “F–k the patriarchy!” In the 10-minute “All Too Well.” Not only does everyone in attendance sing along, they scream along, and wind up to it in the preceding lyrics! Talk about magic! Count on Swifties loudly flipping off men in power, in unison, for years to come.
‘Folklore’ Deep Cut-Turned-Viral Smash “August”
Taylor Swift pays attention to her fans — when she says she’s seen the Evermore hate on TikTok, she’s kidding around, but rest assured she’s actually seen it. So when deciding which tracks from the sprawling Folklore to play, there’s no doubt that Swift noticed the fan adoption to “August,” which wasn’t a focus track upon the album’s release but has since become a fan favorite that’s often bubbling up on social media (especially during the titular month each year). The mass sing-along of “August” may have caught some offline attendees as a surprise, but Swift’s fans fiercely love the wistful folk-pop track, and demonstrated their appreciation at the opener.
The Neon Golf Clubs of “Blank Space”
Swift’s backup dancers rode out on neon-lit bicycles during her performance of the 1989 smash, but that was only prelude to one of the night’s better visuals: Swift and her cohorts brandishing blue-lit golf clubs during the bridge, and then smashing an animated car (a la Swift’s crazed attack in the “Blank Space” video) on a mid-stage screen, each new dent in time with the song’s beat. It was difficult to look away from the spectacle, and became the sort of sight gag that sticks with you long after the show has wrapped.
The Surprise Acoustic Track
Deep into the evening, Swift grabbed her guitar and announced that she planned to perform an acoustic song that wasn’t included in the Eras set list during the tour, with the hope of never duplicating the song she selected for each performance. It’s a strong move in theory — even after the Eras set list gets mulled over endlessly, there will still be a new surprise each night — and was even better in practice, as the achingly beautiful “Mirrorball” was selected for the first performance. The acoustic tracks probably won’t be as strong as the Folklore standout on a nightly basis, but for the Glendale audience, the choice made opening night even more special.
The “Anti-Hero” Metaphor Comes to Life
Earlier in the evening, Taylor Swift gave a begrudging shout-out to everyone in the audience who was dressed like a “sexy baby” in tribute to the “Anti-Hero” lyric; later, when her latest No. 1 smash was performed, Swift embodied the “monster on the hill” line that follows it. On the video screen behind her performance, Swift turned herself into a Godzilla-esque creature terrorizing a city before glumly sitting on (and destroying) an office building. On a night with a lot of impressive choreography and stage setups, that straightforward visual — Swift as the problem, it’s her — became one of the more interesting spectacles of the show, and added to the performance of the hit single.
The “Vigilante Shit” Dance Routine
Speaking of spectacle: Swift goes full-on burlesque alongside her dancers for the Midnights standout, dancing on and around a chair and having an absolute blast while doing it. The song comes about three hours into the performance, but Swift conjures every ounce of energy to turn one of the more sparsely produced songs in her catalog into an enthralling jam.
Ending With a Fan Favorite
The final era presented during the Eras tour is Midnights, and Swift could have capped it with a hit — “Anti-Hero,” of course, or maybe fast-rising follow-up “Lavender Haze.” Instead, she concludes the evening with a trio of non-hits that fans truly adore: “Bejeweled,” “Mastermind” and “Karma.” The logic behind that decision is simple: the Eras tour is less about hits than it is about fan service, and ending on a song like “Karma” nods to those who inhale every song on a Swift track list instead of just paying attention to the singles. This run of shows is for the fully committed Swift listeners, and an album cut like “Karma” is the perfect way to bid them adieu for now.