As Swifties across the globe get ready to dive into the release of 1989 (Taylor’s Version), we’re also prepared to see Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour again (For yours truly, my third time). As the film heads into its third week in theaters, ‘Eras’ is already the biggest concert film of all time at the domestic box office with $131 million and growing. It’s a figure that is all the more impressive considering the film is a “weekends only” release with no ticket sales from Monday through Wednesday. As a shock to no one, Swift’s ginormous show is also the first concert film to ever claim the top spot at the box office two weekends in a row. With all that said, just HOW good is it? Are you ready for it?
I was extremely lucky to snag front-row tickets to the Eras show last August at the SoFi stadium in Los Angeles, where the concert was filmed (Full review of the live show HERE). Obviously, there’s no topping a real-life experience, especially when Taylor made eye contact with me… well, that’s my recollection, and I’m sticking to it! Anyway, a filmed version allows for close-ups and a chance to really take in the sparkly $100 million production budget. Best believe — Eras is bejeweled.
For those not happily obsessed with all things Taylor Swift, here is a brief rundown of the show and its historical context in the scheme of pop music. Back in 2019, Swift released Lover, her seventh studio album and the first with label Virgin EMI. Her first six albums had all been under Big Machine Records, which she parted ways with after not being able to retain the rights to her masters. 2020 was set to see a big tour for Lover. Then, well, we all know what happened. The world shut down. People learned to make bread, clean their closets, and play a ton of Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
But not Taylor. She made not one but two albums: folklore and evermore—the former winning Album of the Year at the Grammy’s in 2021. Then, because she still had a lot of time and endless bouts of creativity, she took on the gargantuan task of re-recording her first six albums. To date she’s released Fearless, Red, Speak Now, and now, 1989, all with the moniker “Taylor’s Version”. Last October, she released her tenth studio album, Midnights. Seriously, it’s her, HI! She’s winning all the time.
When the time came to announce her first tour since 2017’s Reputation, something unprecedented occurred. Instead of merely touring for Midnights, Taylor Swift could do something no major artist in the history of music had done: build a show around four new albums. Taylor being Taylor, she opted to go even bigger. The Eras tour is a trip back to the last seventeen years of her entire career. Yes, once a band has been around for decades (like the recent The Cure tour), bands can go live and play from an extensive catalog, but no artist has ever had four new albums with brand new hit songs from “Cardigan” to “Anti-Hero” that any fan can sing-a-long. Whether or not one is a fan of Taylor Swift, there’s no denying that this has never happened before and, arguably, never will again. Like… ever.
Right from the get-go, one of the first aspects I noticed is that the film opens with no studio logo. Why use a studio when she could easily just get on social media a mere few weeks before release and still open with $92 million? (She did partner with AMC Theaters though.) What’s seen instead is a friendly reminder of all the strobe lights that typically pair with a live show of this proportion. With that out of the way, The Eras Tour begins with Lover. “Cruel Summer,” a song made popular again via TikTok, now has a live track from the show on Apple Music and Spotify.
By design, each “era” features songs from a particular album. The order of the albums is not chronological but varied. Not all albums get equal play. Speak Now only gets “Enchanted” while Midnights gets the most with seven. The ten-minute version of her all-timer from Red, “All Too Well,” is one of the film’s many highlights with the singer-songwriter onstage solo. Later, as Swift proclaims, “Welcome to the acoustic section!” the singer makes SoFi stadium tiny with just an Era-themed microphone (love those), a guitar, and a piano. The back and forth between epic bangers like “Shake It Off” and smaller staples like evermore’s witchy-adorned “Willow” blends perfectly. Then, of course, there are the Reputation era songs. “Delicate,” one of my favs, captures one of the best moments ever as fans chant, “1,2,3 let’s go bish!” A routine that became a staple after a fan got the attention of fellows Swifties during the Rep tour in 2017.
The run time of 2 hours and 49 minutes moves surprisingly…uh, swift. The actual live show is well over three hours. A few songs were cut. Costume changes fly by as a new banner fills the screen announcing: evermore, 1989, you get it. With such variety between sets and fantastic dancers, there are so many eye-popping colors to drink in. Even having seen the show three times, there’s still more to see like Swift’s famous easter eggs. Other moments, like the staging for “Anti-Hero,” features a Godzilla-sized Swift towering over a city landscape, while the real Taylor sings about all the contradictions that comprise not just herself but all of us.
Yet as big as the show is, director Sam Wrench (Billie Eilish: Live at O2) wisely seems to be borrowing from Jonathan Demme’s Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense, arguably the best concert film ever made. While the size is totally different, as the 80s film was shot at a much smaller venue, The Pantages in Los Angeles, both directors keep us laser-focused on the main person we’re here to see. As Talking Heads’ David Byrne often looks directly into the camera, Taylor Swift does the same and then looks out to the staggering 70K fans in attendance. Wrench knows that, like any great music video, a strong concert film must capture not just the outsized personality but the intimate, more human side.
The costumes span the ten albums. From previous shows to classic music videos, odds are one of your favorite Taylor outfits made the cut. Or at least some variation, like the campy chic of “You Need To Calm Down’s” Pride meets trailer park aesthetic. Some pieces, like the Versace bodysuit, which opens the show, are interesting updates. Other looks are directly referenced, including her Roberto Cavalli two-piece from 1989. A big stunner is the Nicole + Felicia gown from Speak Now.
Swift is brilliant in how she’s forged a career by making the idea of being the biggest pop star in the world look easy. Natural. Her commitment to entertain yet never be so clever she forgets to be kind is astounding. Her choice to address the crowd to discuss why she wanted to take them on this nearly two-decade journey is breezy. Like, no biggie, dude. In an age where audiences complain about theatergoers who text during a film or other nuisances, Eras is liberating in how fans get to react to it. My second viewing at an AMC in Century City, CA, was filled with little kids and at least one grandma who danced in the aisles. Every one of them as connected to Swift as their friendship bracelets
Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour is one of the best concert films ever. It highlights the pop star’s oodles of charm, showmanship, and, above all, relatability. Likewise, the show can often feel just as much in the fans’ POV as Swift’s. That balance between one of the best pop stars of all time and, undoubtedly, some of the best fans ever is pretty darn special. So, Taylor, can we get a live album of the tour ASAP? An addition that will surely make my whole collection shimmer.