My voice is hoarse, my caffeinated drink is at my side as I head into a long day of teaching… but it was all totally worth it! The Eras Tour is an amazing show and a delightful celebration of Taylor’s broad and deep discography!
Because I’m a quantitative social scientist, I can’t help but rank things as a way to enjoy and appreciate them… so here I’m going to rank the presentation of each era at the Eras Tour concert I attended (Sunday, April 2, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX). Bottom line: They’re all great. The show is maybe the biggest music event I’ll ever see–a concert/sing-a-long/costume party with tens of thousands of your fellow Swifties. So this ranking is in the spirit of having fun and celebrating that Swiftie experience.
And, of course, it reflects my own enjoyment. Please feel free to disagree, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! If you want to see my other Taylor rankings, check out my ranking of Taylor Swift’s songs and her albums. And if you want to hear more of my thoughts about the concert, I had the opportunity to speak with Sarah Asch about it in a Texas Standard radio spot before the show, and then a chance to debrief it with her and Wells Dunbar after the show on Twitter Spaces.
So here’s the ranking… obviously, spoilers follow. Except for one from my wife, images are my own taken on a cell phone at the 400 level.
10. Taylor Swift (debut album). This is at the bottom because… well, it was absent. I think that choice is defensible; even in a 44-song set, she can’t cover everything (because she’s produced that much music across such a long period of time).
9. Reputation. This being ranked low may have much to do with my high expectations. Reputation is one of my absolute most favorite Taylor Swift albums, one that I initially viewed with skepticism but have come to really appreciate and enjoy. The snake imagery on stage was great (including a snake microphone!), and I especially enjoyed how that transitioned into the Speak Now era, with the big snake slithering across the runway. What left me wanting, then? There was no “Getaway Car.” That song is just at the crux of this era and I felt its absence; I would’ve traded any of the four she chose for that one. Also, the back half of the album’s resolution from the first half’s angst was absent too; that’s more understandable, because again, she can’t cover everything. But, my two cents: “Getaway Car” should’ve made the cut. I hope it shows up in later concerts. The people in glass boxes during “Look What You Made Me Do” was delightfully weird, though.
8. 1989. I’m not sure “Shake It Off” has aged that well. As I’ve written in my ranking of her songs, it’s the one TSwift song that, to my ear, is a bit “been there, done that.” But, although “Blank Space” has never hit me as much as it hits others, it came alive in the stadium environment, and the Tron-style grid lines and neon bikes (with golf clubs? Wow!) was pretty cool. So were the pyrotechnics in “Bad Blood,” another song that isn’t my favorite but worked well here.
7. Speak Now. Only reason this is a bit low is because we only got one song, “Enchanted.” But that was a stellar choice. Taylor’s performance of this jewel of a song was passionate and warm and epic, and a highlight of the entire show. I look forward to seeing this era get more time in the sun soon (we hope) with Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).
6. Evermore. This is not my favorite Taylor Swift album, but her performance of this era was great. The way she played “Champagne Problems” shows that she knows her audience (“you ready for the bridge?”), and the stagecraft of “Tolerate It” was outstanding (excellent acting work not just by Taylor, but by the dancer who played the dismissive husband). I just wish the jumbotron had shown the on-stage action for “Tolerate It” like every other song; I don’t know if that was a deliberate artistic choice or a technical glitch specific to our show. The picture below is of the fire effects for “Willow,” and you can see the trees that emerge from the stage in the upper left.
5. Midnights. The transition to Midnights is incredible, with Taylor diving into the stage after her acoustic set, appearing to swim beneath the stage, enter the cloud, and emerge in Midnights garb. And I’m glad “Midnight Rain” made the setlist–it was a reflective complement to the more energetic songs. I confess that I find myself wondering: Did the dancers wearing different colors in the final number (“Karma”) symbolize different eras, maybe even eras left to come? If so, perhaps a dark green, a white, and a gold album are in our future? She is a “Mastermind,” after all (and I’m glad that also made the cut, and I liked the chessboard theming of that one).
4. Red. My only complaint about the treatment of Red is that it was impossible to do the album, which is now an expansive masterwork in its Taylor’s Version version, full justice. That’s where the 10-minute “All Too Well” is both a benefit and a drawback: A benefit as a true showstopper, where much of the production drops out and its just Taylor connecting with the audience, but a drawback because it means other great songs from Red just can’t make the show. But as someone who is almost 44, I’m glad that at the age of 33, she’s still singing “22.”
3. Lover. Such a strong start to the show and great to see this underrated album finally, finally get some serious attention four years after its release. My eyes got moist when the “Miss Americana” intro came on, and I wish that song had been allowed to bloom into its powerful self, but moving right into “Cruel Summer” was also a solid choice. The pageantry of “The Man” was outstanding, and I especially enjoyed how the flaming arrows of “The Archer” transitioned from a burning Lover House into…
2. Fearless. I didn’t expect this era to hit me this way! But shouting these classic lyrics while jumping (yes, I’m a 43-year-old man and I was jumping!) with 80,000 other Swifties is just peak Eras Tour. “Fearless,” “You Belong With Me,” and “Love Story” seem nearly custom-made to have big impact in an arena, and here, 15 years after the release of that album, it felt like they hadn’t aged a day.
1. Folklore. Despite the brisk pace of the 3-hour show, Taylor effectively captured the mood and tone of each album era (except debut, of course), but of any era, this was the one that felt like it had the most chance to breathe. The woodsy staging with the cottage was great, the phalanx of mourners and water-styled fire of “My Tears Ricochet,” the rich colors and sheer fun of “August,” the band performing on the cottage steps for “Betty,” the elegant dress of the dancers in “Last Great American Dynasty”… yeah, she made the right decision to let her most recent Grammy-winning album shine, and that these intimate songs work in a football stadium is testament to her stage presence and her artistic genius.
Finally, let me give a shout-out to the staff of AT&T Stadium, who let us in early when a thunderstorm and potentially severe weather hit before they were set to open! Thanks for keeping us safe!
2 thoughts on “The Eras Tour’s Eras, Ranked by a 40-Something Bald Professor”
Loved the post! Quick question- How did you feel about the Vigilante Shit performance?
Vigilante Shit wasn’t my favorite performance of the night, but part of that might be because I’m not familiar with the musical Chicago. It fits the song though.