Sparkles, Day-Glo and Tears: Taylor Swift @ The Verizon Center, Washington, DC 06.02.10

Prologue: Thoughts the night before the show: This was the first Taylor Swift show I was lucky enough to get tickets for. They went onsale October 20, a week before the Charlottesville show, which was in March. So, while the Charlottesville show was the first show I attended, I’ve had this show on my calendar for almost eight months. No matter what was going on in my daily life, good day or bad day, in the back of my mind, I could look forward and know that I had a phenomenal show to look forward to. It will be strange to have it as only a memory after tomorrow night. I imagine the ride home will be very quiet, partially from the exhaustion of a busy day, but mostly because of the inevitable ‘come down’ after a show. Having this one on my calendar for such a long time, I think the ‘come down’ will be one for the record books.

Show review:

Wednesday night June 2 was the second sold-out night in a row at DC’s Verizon Center for Taylor Swift and her ‘Fearless Tour.’ That shouldn’t be anything new. Every single date of the tour, which began in April of last year, sold out in minutes, so throngs of screaming fans have become the norm wherever Taylor goes. If you would like a very detailed description of her show, read my review from her March show in Charlottesville here. This review is going to mostly be about the fans.

I saw this show with Eddie. He was with me when we saw Taylor in March, so we knew what to expect. I also knew that nothing was gonna top that first show, mainly because the element of surprise was gone, and honestly, as venues go, Verizon Center is one of my least favorites, while John Paul Jones arena in Charlottesville is one of the absolute best. Knowing these things going in, I decided not to quibble about sound mix, sight lines or little things that can sometimes annoy me at shows. This night was going to be about soaking up and enjoying all that I know a Taylor Swift show to be: the hits, the lights, the hugs and one of the most devoted fan bases I have ever had the privilege to be a part of.

Case in point: Eddie and I arrived in DC about an hour before the doors opened. The Verizon Center has shops and a movie theatre around the outside of the venue, so you’re indoors, but you’re in a plaza-like setting with distractions to kill time while waiting for the venue doors to open. Upon leaving the parking deck and not quite sure where to go next, we took the escalator down to street level and saw a group of fans with multi-colored signs. I said out loud, ‘I think we’re where we’re supposed to be.’ Eddie walked up to the glass doors to read a sign posted, just to make sure that we were standing near a door that would indeed be opened when soundcheck finished. We were in the right place, so I took a look around from my vantage point, leaning on a wall beside the door in front of section 112.

Then I saw one of the coolest things ever.

Remember when I mentioned in my previous Taylor review how fans had made shirts of their own, most of them spot-on replicas of the ‘Band Geek’ shirt Taylor wore in the ‘You Belong With Me Video’? Well Wednesday night, I saw fans who had made their own homemade shirts, of their own design and inspiration. And, while waiting out front, I saw the one I will remember: A fan had taken a basic black t-shirt and, with day-glo magic marker, she had hand-written in cursive the lyrics to the song ‘Today Was A Fairytale’ so that it covered the back of the entire shirt, each lyric line a different color. I love seeing hand made signs and shirts, because I know it takes a lot of work to make a great one. I was blown away and kept looking back over at the girl in the shirt, standing with her friends talking in excited tones.

‘You like fan-made shirts, don’t you?’ Eddie said.
‘Yeah I do. It’s probably the ultimate statement of “I’m A Fan”, and it means more than anything she’ll buy at the merch table.’
‘You should make one,’ Eddie said.
‘No. I’m not artistic. The closest I would come would be silk screening a photo. Something like that [looking at the girl in day-glo] takes a lot of work.’

The doors opened and we found our way to our seats. For this show, we had a straight-on view of the stage, though further back than when we were sitting stage right in Charlottesville. It  did mean we would have a better view of some elements of the show that are missed unless you’re looking straight ahead and not from a side. Also, it meant that, when Taylor appeared on her ‘mini-stage’ in the center of the arena, we would have an excellent view.

I will mention here quickly that openers Glorianna continue to impress. They kept it short and sweet, playing the same five songs I heard in March. In fact, as I suspected, all three artists on the bill played the same setlist as they had in Charlottesville. That didn’t surprise me, but, with it being the last arena show of the tour, I was hoping the encore would change a bit [namely replacing ‘Today Was A Fairytale’ with the rocker ‘Change].

Kellie Pickler really should be headlining her own tour. I thought for sure once the Fearless Tour wraps Saturday in Foxboro, MA, that Kellie would begin plans for a headlining jaunt of her own, but she’s opening for Rascal Flatts thru the summer. That’s a great tour to be a part of, I’m sure, but I’m puzzled as to why she isn’t headlining yet. She came out onstage, in a red top and blue jeans and, as always, was breezy and easy going in her delivery and banter with the audience. Now, you and I know that I paid to see Taylor. Kellie was a bonus, but I was genuinely sad to see her leave the stage, seemingly so soon after she arrived. She’s someone I will gladly pay to see in concert again, hopefully on a headlining tour…soon!

This is where it gets interesting. Ya see, I’ve said that a Taylor Swift show is, for me anyway, on par with any show I’ve seen by any artist of any genre. That includes especially KISS shows. I say this because Taylor presents a ‘show’, with set pieces, video montages [to fill time between costume changes] and props. Her show, like a KISS show, presents the same show at every stop. I’ve heard Paul Stanley explain the reasoning as ‘The fan that didn’t see last night’s show, deserves to see the same show that last night’s fan saw.’ Now, some fans of some artists hate that a set list never changes on a tour. What was great about Wednesday night though was, I knew exactly what was coming, and it still had me on my feet, clapping, singing and screaming along. And, even when I knew what was coming, there were a few surprises.

Taylor always sings the song ‘Hey Stephen’ from somewhere other than than the stage. I never knew where she was singing it at the show in Charlottesville, but Wednesday night, she sang it from a section off the floor, among the fans…and directly across from where Eddie and I stood. Luck of the draw. Had we been on the other side of the auditorium, in the same section, we would have been part of a ‘friendly mob scene’. Yeah it would have been fun to be part of that, but I had fun watching those fans freak out.

Taylor sang the song, then made her way thru the crowd to the mini-stage. Here before starting her normal introduction for the song ‘Fifteen’, she mentioned that she had visited Walter Reed Medical Center earlier in the day, thanked the soldiers for sharing their stories, and said several ‘troops are here tonite.’ Then, after singing ‘Fifteen’ and half of ‘Tim McGraw’, Taylor made her way thru the crowd in the floor seats. Here, in several aisles on the floor, were where the veterans from Walter Reed were seated. Taylor made a point to hug each one, leaving both artist and soldier visibly moved. Also while making her way back to the stage, Taylor saw a blonde girl in a straw cowboy hat, who could not have been older than four, and again Taylor made a point to hug her, give her a kiss on the cheek and even take one of the many bracelets from her wrist and put it on the arm of the young fan.

I’ve said it before, but country artists really have a relationship with their fans unlike any other genre. It really is something to behold.

One more thing I must mention. In front of us sat a family of four: Mom, Dad, Son [age 8] and Daughter [age 5], and as soon as the lights went down and the screens showed that famous Taylor Swift logo in neon, I knew immediately that the reason this family of four was here was for their daughter. She spent the concert being handed back and forth between mom and dad so she could see, and whenever Taylor started to sing a song this little girl knew [which I’m pretty sure was all of them], she would take her hands, ball them up into little fists of excitement and start hitting her dad’s shoulder while she jumped up and down in his arms, swinging her blonde hair back and forth singing at the top of her lungs. The song ‘Love Story’ must have been her favorite, because once that song was over, I guess she figured it was okay to give in to sleep. It was a pleasure to watch someone be the definition of unbridled excitement, and I know it’s a night that little girl and her parents [and maybe even her older brother] won’t ever forget.

Taylor sparkled, her vocals were flawless and the evening was one that lived up to eight months of buildup and anticipation. As I left the concourse and headed to the parking deck, soon after the confetti and water had fallen, I saw a young girl, maybe ten or eleven, sobbing, seemingly unwilling to believe the night was over. While I kept my emotions in check, I felt the same way.

Now, I really can’t wait to see what Taylor does next. And if she tours again, whenever that might be, I’ll be there.

Trust me, she’s one you don’t want to miss.