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Taylor Swift live in Dublin review

Taylor Swift live in Dublin review

Andrea Cleary

Andrea Cleary attended night one of the the Eras tour in Dublin.

To go to a Taylor Swift concert is to opt into a narrative. Every city on the tour will have their own place in that narrative; in Dublin, sure “they couldn’t give away tickets the last time” when she played two nights at Croke Park, mid-cancellation.

The three night sold-out run at the Aviva stadium over this past weekend will be enough to put that strand to rest: nobody will be mentioning half-empty Dublin stadiums and Taylor Swift in the same breath again. 

Dublin opted into the cultural moment

Instead, heading along to the Aviva Stadium for night one of three, Dublin opted into the cultural moment. Cookies, cupcakes and friendship bracelets were sold from enterprising teens in their front gardens (three bracelets for nine euro, and I paid via a printed Revolut QR code) in the residential areas around the stadium. Fans in full Taylor cosplay carried signs reading “NEED ONE (1) TICKET”.

Rickshaw drivers belted out the setlist from speakers, feather boas adorning their bikes. Gardaí swapped their hats with kids for pinker, cowboy varieties. The vibes, in short, were immaculate, and would remain so until I got back home that night. 

Swiftian culture

Since the beginning of the tour and back to 2017, every song, outfit and movement has been documented and analysed online. The Swifties are an insatiable, culturally aware fandom who themselves produce Swiftian culture – the live streams from shows, the breakdowns of what every outfit, necklace, nail polish colour could mean.

They don’t just know the lyrics, they understand their potential for double, triple, quadruple meanings. They’re versed in numerology, Shakespeare, colour theory. And they create incalculable numbers of theories about what it could all mean.

Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re not, but that’s not really the point is it? To be a fan of Taylor Swift is to belong to a community that could sustain itself for decades if she decided to retire from public life tomorrow. 

Complicated feelings

I was hoping, going into the show, to work out some of the complicated feelings I have about Taylor. I’ve watched her cultural impact for over a decade and have felt seduced by the glow of her fandom. She’s a shortcut to the kind of nostalgic girlhood that I am simultaneously protective and suspicious of.

I will defend her when men call her talentless, and I will criticise her when I feel it’s warranted. I think it’s easy to think of Taylor Swift fans as falling into two distinct categories: the rabid stans who cyberbully people online and the chin-stroking cultural theorists who find her just fascinating. I don’t find these kinds of binaries useful, appealing or accurate.

Most Taylor fans probably come with their own caveats – “I like her but I don’t like her carbon emissions/ her silence on political issues / her brand of feminism” etc. These caveats are a sign of a healthy fandom, and the debates about popular culture, the environment, gender, feminism, neoliberalism and capitalism are happening within, not outside, of it.

Taylor Swift. Aviva Stadium. June 28th. Photo TAS Rights Management.
Taylor Swift. Aviva Stadium. June 28th. Photo TAS Rights Management.

The Eras tour

The Eras tour is, conceptually, a presentation of everything Taylor has achieved in her career. She talks us through the songs, what was going on in her life when she was writing them, asks us if we remember this one (of course we do Taylor). But it’s the meta-narrative that unfolds over three and a half hours on stage that we’re really engaging with.

See Also

As every era is presented we remember its place in discourses of poptimism (1989), cancel culture (Reputation) popular/white feminism (Lover), though she’ll never reference them directly.  It’s built on the self-awareness of Taylor Swift’s changeable public image, and how she has sought to control it. Here’s how I responded to body shaming, here’s how I responded to cancellation, here’s how I responded to heartbreak. And here’s how you can too.

It functions as a criticism of the music industry through simultaneously positioning her as the underdog and the biggest artist in the world. It’s more than a trip through the back catalogue of Swift’s music, it’s a journey through almost two decades of popular discourse.

The church of Taylor

I’m not sure if I’ve ironed out the issues I have with giving myself fully to the church of Taylor, but what I took away from the live show is that I don’t have to. Her real genius is managing to engage the entire spectrum of concert goers – stans, casuals and, of course, the Dads – in what any of them would reasonably call one of the best gigs of their lives.

I managed to set aside those complications for a few hours and gave myself over to whatever magic is present when 50,000 fans are united in awe. I teared up during ‘All Too Well’, I cheered when ‘You’re On Your Own Kid’ was played as a surprise song, I bopped to ‘Shake It Off’.

I spent the bus home looking for a dupe of her Midnights jacket while a group of women in their early twenties answered questions about the show from another bus goer who couldn’t get tickets (she left the bus with a few friendship bracelets). I felt much like I did leaving the Barbie movie: like girlhood can’t be contained in a film or a popstar or a concert, but it’s fun to pretend for a night. 

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