Taylor Swift makes National Stadium shimmer on opening night of Singapore concerts


The concert was a celebration of Taylor Swift’s career – from her second album, Fearless (2009), to her most recent album, Midnights (2022). - ST

SINGAPORE: “You need to calm down,” exhorted American pop star Taylor Swift during the fourth song of her sold-out Eras Tour concert at the National Stadium on Saturday (March 2), the first of six planned shows at the 55,000-capacity venue.

The line was not an admonishment to the high-energy crowd to settle down, but a lyric from one of more than 40 songs Swift played during her 3½-hour set.

The concert was a celebration of the 34-year-old singer-songwriter’s career – from her second album, Fearless (2009), to her most recent album, Midnights (2022).

Swift will also perform on March 3, 4, 7, 8 and 9, and is the second act to front six shows at the National Stadium, after Coldplay did the same in January.

When fans put up their phone flashlights for Marjorie, a tradition on the Eras Tour, Swift said she was “so moved” by the gesture, adding that the song was about her maternal grandmother.

In 1968, The Straits Times reported that Swift’s grandmother Marjorie Finlay, an opera singer, was chosen to play the part of a peasant girl in a production at the Victoria Theatre.

“My mum actually spent a lot of her childhood with her mum and dad and sister growing up in Singapore. A lot of the time when we would come here on tour, my mum would drive me past her house, where she went to school.

“I have been hearing about Singapore all my life. To get to come here and play a show this big... it means the world,” Swift told the rapt crowd.

There were a few security hiccups as people had to be repeatedly cleared from standing in the aisles between floor sections.

But Swift remained a consummate performer throughout, moving from era to era, and commanding every inch of the sprawling stage with an ease that reflected her 18 years in the music industry.

She took the stage at 7pm after an opening set by American singer Sabrina Carpenter.

Carpenter caused a brief tizzy during her performance of Nonsense, a song where she is known to customise the outro in a homage to the city she is performing in.

“Gardens by the Bay, I wanna go there. Then I’ll take you somewhere that has no hair. Singapore, you’re so perfect, it’s no fair,” she sang to cheers from the stadium, which was 90 per cent full by the end of her opening set.

Together with her army of backup dancers, singers and instrumentalists, Swift whisked fans through a song-and-dance extravaganza peppered with more local references, including a sprinkling of Singlish during We Are Never Getting Back Together.

During the song, backup dancer Kameron Saunders usually responds with “like ever” during Swift’s spoken interlude. In Australia, where Swift performed before arriving in Singapore, he said “yeah, nah” or “naur” – local slang for no.

For Singapore’s opening night, he countered with “no lah” instead – to the delight of the crowd.

Another highlight was part of Blank Space, from Swift’s 1989 era. The crowd roared “Singapore” at certain parts of the bridge – one of the chants that had been collectively agreed upon by her fandom.

Yvonne Inglin, a 16-year-old student from School of the Arts Singapore, entered the venue at 5.40pm. Her brother gave her Category 1 tickets that very morning, with a prime view of the diamond stage where Swift spent most of her time during the concert.

“I am so excited, I can’t believe I am here, and I can’t wait to trade a million bracelets,” she said.

Manmit Kumakale and Jas Thakker, both 21-year-old art students from Pune, India, were decked out in outfits inspired by Swift’s music video for her song Bejewelled. They arrived in Singapore on March 1, having purchased their Category 3 tickets during the first ticket sale in July 2023.

“We decided to get ‘bejewelled’ for the concert... we are just so ready to hear her sing and do her thing,” said Manmit.

Swift’s The Eras Tour – where she performs songs from nine to 10 of her albums, depending on what she chooses in the acoustic “surprise song” set – has been a record-breaking juggernaut from the get-go.

She played two mash-ups as part of the show – a pairing of Mine from Speak Now (2010) and Starlight from Red (2012) on the guitar, and I Don’t Wanna Live Forever – the soundtrack to the 2017 film Fifty Shades Darker – and Dress on the piano. Dress is from Reputation (2017), an album that booted Swift’s “good girl” image out the door.

At the end of 2023, The Eras Tour became the first concert tour to hit US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) in gross revenue, after accounting for only 60 shows out of a planned 151.

Singapore is Swift’s only South-east Asia stop on The Eras Tour. The only other Asian city to host Swift was Tokyo, where she performed four shows at the Tokyo Dome in January.

Tickets for the six concerts, priced between S$88++ and $1,228++, sold out hours after they went on sale in July 2023. A second, smaller sale in January 2024 also sold out within a few hours.

Swift last performed in Singapore in 2015, playing two shows at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. She also finished off her Red Tour there in June 2014, and kicked off her Speak Now World Tour in February 2011 at the same venue.

After she closes out her final Singapore concert on March 9, she will take a short break, before kicking off a Europe leg in Paris in May.

But fans present at her opening show on March 2 are already looking forward to her return to Singapore.

“I wasn’t really a Swiftie until I saw The Eras Tour movie in November. Seeing the concert in person tonight, it gave me a whole new appreciation for her music and her as a performer. It is also my first concert in Singapore, so the experience is truly memorable. Definitely beats painting by the numbers at home,” said 27-year-old student Lee Pei Yuan. - The Straits Times/ANN

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