Taylor Swift @ Madison Square Garden 11.21.11

by Sammy Kaufman (Communications), published November 29th 2011

photos by Ronald Woan

Taylor Swift.  The mere mention of her name will result in the dismissal of this article for many of you.  And for that, I am extremely disappointed.  Of course, I’m sure you all have valid arguments.  She’s absolutely awful!  The girl can’t even sing!  She looks like a mouse!  And honestly, once upon a time, I believed in many said ideas myself.  However, after an enchanted night at the Garden with a few beers, my homemade t-shirt, and a supportive roommate, Monday, November 21, 2011 marked one of the best experiences of my life.

Logistics aside, it’s hard to not be impressed by the elaborate and detailed performance capable at MSG.  Accompanied by contextual glitter, fireworks, aerialists and, I think, seven costume changes, the show could easily be compared to the acts that grace the Broadway stages just next door. Fans of all ages, dressed in flashing lights and DIY outfits, waited in anticipation as the two opening bands successfully ripped off Kings of Leon.  When this stalling was completed, we were finally given the girl we were asking for.

Opening with one of her current singles “Sparks Fly”, Swift controlled the stage, running from one end to the other, with an energy that only matched the crowd screaming her lyrics.  Performing 12 of the 14 tracks off her newest album, Speak Now, little was left desired from the adoring fans out of Taylor’s two-hour set. Each song was marked by unique and creative visuals from choreography and scenes mimicking each song’s story line to the accompaniment of ten violinists and at one point, a harp.  Instrumentally, the concert was stacked with talent that highlighted Swift’s own vocals, which, in the past, could have certainly used the help.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m a T-swift supporter through and through but she certainly has not been blessed with the greatest track record of live performances.  From singing completely off key with legend Stevie Nicks during the 2010 Grammys to questionable acts during past CMAs, Swift has been under the scrutiny of critics from early on in her career.  However, whether due to a lack of nerves or just simple improvement, I never once found myself questioning Swift’s talent during her sold-out performance.  Not only was I impressed by her execution of her own songs but also of The Goo Goo Doll’s “Iris” which leader singer, John Rzeznik, joined her for.  I’d be lying to you if I said this wasn’t the best thing that could have happened.  As I screamed along, almost to tears, the duo effortlessly increased the arena’s energy to unimaginable heights.

But what sets Taylor Swift apart from other female singers is not her vocals, but her songwriting and the natural intimacy it creates among her fans.  Like any good songwriter, she utilizes her own experiences to share stories and paint emotions that pluck the heartstrings of more people than who’d probably care to admit.  She doesn’t need to dance, or be this powerhouse vocalist because frankly, she’s not. Her vulnerability and confidence in herself fuels her music and in turn, her success.  As long as she continues to embrace the overemotional, hopeless romantic she is Swift will forever create music her audience will want to hear.


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