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Taylor Swift, Wembley Eras Tour review: You wonder who she really is

Taylor Swift playing Wembley Arena last night, the first of seven shows in the capital (Photo: Getty)
Taylor Swift playing Wembley Arena last night, the first of seven shows in the capital (Photo: Getty)

Taylor Swift at Wembley Stadium review: ★★★★

It was significant for more reasons than one: the unequivocal American Dream in human form, aka Taylor Swift, hasn’t played London since her Reputation Tour in 2018. Last night marked the first of seven shows at Wembley Stadium, more than she’s doing anywhere else on the 152-show world tour. Swift loves London; early in the set last night she called the capital “the most exhilarating in the world.” But fans had another question: would she play London Boy, the much-maligned 2019 song with the lyrics that went viral about Swift enjoying “nights in Brixton, Shoreditch in the afternoon”?

She has become inextricably linked to our capital through her six-year relationship with the British actor Joe Alwyn that ended in April last year. Swift enjoys being a lyrical tease (she hasn’t revealed the name of the ‘London Boy’ though it can only be Alwyn or Matty Healy from The 1975 who she dated briefly) but even for her, playing London Boy would have been too on-the-nose. She did, however, drop The Black Dog from 2024’s The Tortured Poet’s Department, a ditty about a pub in Vauxhall she supposedly visited. In a recent interview, Alwyn shadily said he’d never been to Vauxhall. “I have never played this song live before so pray to God,” Swift said as she sat at the piano.

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Who knows whether the emotional baggage was whirring through Swift’s mind last night, in fact, who knows what’s going on in her mind full-stop. Despite the endless cherry smile and assertions that she was shocked by the huge fan reception, she feels emotionally distant, hard to read despite her declarations that she loves everyone so much. You wonder where the performance ends and the person begins. But she knows how to give them what they want: The Eras Tour is an almost unreasonable amount of fun, an almost clinically perfect three-hour romp through her greatest hits in chronological order (hence ‘The Eras Tour.’)

Taylor Swift at Wembley: Brilliant, but more fun than heart-warming

Nevertheless, Swift is a masterclass in delivering performances that skirt near perfection. In terms of her performance style, she often leans into the classic country singer formula that earmarked the beginning of her career: lots of standing and singing without many bells and whistles, sometimes with impressive but minimalistic choreography from a handful of dancers. She has a clever but unintrusive stage design that elevates her often, letting off the occasional blast of confetti or torches without it becoming a firework night of pyrotechnics. In her way, she’s stripped back, wearing pretty but conventional dresses and singing nearly pitch perfectly.

Early in the three-hour set, 88,000 arms sprung back and forth for sugary 2008 track Love Story after the 35-year-old from Pennsylvania was revealed from the bowels of stage, appearing from underneath four dancers wearing clam shell costumes. She powered through 22, I Knew You Were Trouble, then into the racier Look What You Made Me Do, pausing to chat every three of four songs. They weren’t quite platitudes, though they veered towards that. At one point she remembered how early in her career she played at King’s College, a nice titbit, and three times she called to security to help people in the audience who needed assistance.

Read more: Taylor Swift, The Tortured Poets Department review: Cathartic, but lacks a climax

The pandemic era saw Swift go inwards, and in some ways, back to where she began, with more stripped-back guitar led ruminations that filled two LPs, Folklore and Evermore. Later in the set she laid on top of a garden house she imagined when writing the tracks like My Tears Ricochet and Cardigan, which are nice pause moments, already feeling nostalgic for how they set a certain tone in the pandemic.

Then the energy of 1989 and two of the biggest numbers, Blank Space and Shake it Off, back to back. Two surprise songs (she plays different ones in every show) were Death By a Thousand Cuts and The Black Dog, leading into Mastermind, Vigilante Shit and, later, the closer Karma, a belter from her recent overstuffed 31-track album. It was an anticlimactic close, with all the biggest tracks performed earlier chronologically, but the new LP suggests there’s plenty left in the Taylor Swift ammunition packet yet.

You end up wondering who she really is. A pal whispered mid set that she might be “the world’s best facade.” It’s all brilliant, but more fun than heart-warming. There is a mechanised feeling to Swift: she hasn’t properly had a break in 20 years, never stopping recording or touring. “You don’t know how amazing you’re making me feel right now,” she said towards the end, standing in a thunder of cheers as if it were rain cooling her sweaty torso. But that’s where she’s wrong: I have no doubt how amazing Taylor Swift feels.