Direction: Sam Wrench
Production: Taylor Swift
Cast: Taylor Swift
Length: 169 minutes
Two years ago, Taylor Swift strode onto the arena-sized stages of the BRIT Awards in London, to collect the Global Icon trophy in recognition of her contribution to the music industry over the past 15 years, and two years prior, the American Music Awards in Los Angeles to become the Artist of the Decade. In hindsight,these accolades now appear somewhat premature, given the cultural, economic and political impact Swifthas gone on to imprint with ‘The Eras Tour’ on a stadium-sized vista, both the ongoing live concerts and, now, its cinemascopic adaptation.
Already the highest grossing concert film in history from its global presales alone, ‘The Eras Tour’ film
compiles 40 songs from 10 albums performed live across three shows at the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles
two months ago. An ‘Oppenheimer’ threatening spectacle in both length and ambition, Swift embodies the modern-day gladiator, one of electric choreography and formidable stamina, in the heart of the American Colosseum. And she’ll perform 47 songs (including two surprise songs, one on piano, one on guitar) over 146 concerts around five continents in a tour that, upon its conclusion next year, is also expected to become the highest grossing of all time. Obviously.
Hit songs ‘You Need to Calm Down’ and ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ benefit tremendously from the
rapturous roar of the stadium setting, as do ‘Blank Space’ and ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’. What the
youthful positivity in ‘22’ and ‘Style’ do for the nightclub at its most carefree, the sheer innocence of ‘You
Belong with Me’ and ‘Shake It Off’ do for the anticipatory vibe of the house party pre-departure to a night
out made of bubble-gum fun. From the hypnotic pulsations of ‘Delicate’ and ‘The Man’ to the one-two
punch of similarly fashioned ‘Lavender Haze’ and ‘Anti-Hero’, your night at the movies will more than
suffice for a night out on the town.
While the symphonic wholesomeness of ‘Gorgeous’ was sadly absent from the set list, other story songs of the same ilk as ‘Betty’ and ‘The Last Great American Dynasty’ burn bright with warmth, almost as much as the golden glow that emanates from the waltzing hearth of ‘Lover’, a standout. With such an expansive discography, a signature song is becoming evermore difficult to identify. However, if ever there were one that encapsulates the genre of Taylor Swift the best, ‘Love Story’ is still the apex, while the ten-minute version of ‘All Too Well’ is undoubtedly her magnum opus.
Even though some personal favourites never made it to the tour, the most missed songs were the five that were cut from the film. Among these absences we find the iconic titles ‘Wildest Dreams’ and ‘Long Live’ but the biggest losses are probably those songs from the most recent albums, ‘The Archer’, ‘No Body, No Crime’ and ‘Cardigan’. Personally, the last two sting the most as they haven’t been performed in a Swift concert film before.
But not everything was a loss as Taylor blessed the Swifties with her choice of surprise songs for the
acoustic set. On guitar, ‘Our Song’ was a gift for the original fans as was the only song from her debut (self-titled) album to be played. On piano, jumping forward in time, ‘You’re on Your Own, Kid’ marks her journey both personally and musically as it has become a fan favourite from her latest album ‘Midnights’.
Similarly to the Eurovision Song Contest with its vast array of coverage and fast pace of editing (although
broadcast for live terrestrial television), ‘The Eras Tour’ film enhances the irreplaceable excitement of
anticipation and reaction to the point of immersion by the equally perceptive choice to send the film to the big screen in exchange for a streaming platform. While the ‘Reputation Stadium Tour’ translates
marvellously on Netflix (the larger the screen, the better), the ten Eras of Taylor Swift, by transmission on the largest screen of all (even IMAX) become sensational. Even the thoughtful, subtler story songs of twins ‘Folklore’ and ‘Evermore’ work well (providing a necessary diversity of texture in tone and pace) at the centre of the stadia maximum.
After negotiations with major Hollywood film studios proved to be unfruitful, Swift has decided, instead, to partner with the theatre companies foregoing the traditional release strategy for a unique global
distribution model. Given the current American actor’s union strike which has prevented actors from
working on or promoting any production outside that of the independent market, this is a brilliant move
without precedent. Since ‘The Eras Tour’ film was mounted in house by Taylor Swift Productions (of
course) for no more than $20million, the limit for what is generally regarded as independent of the studio system, filming and screening have progressed without issue. Foresight.
In consonance with the double billing of ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’, event cinema, like ‘The Eras Tour’, will undoubtedly aid the silver screen financially in its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. It should also act as a challenge to theatre companies to diversify their output since there is clearly a dedicated audience (of verified millions) for similar programming that has the capacity to become a communal experience. Especially if its auditoriums are as sold out as the stadiums; in this way, the cinema becomes an extension of the concert. And, with ‘The Eras Tour’ only screening from Thursday to Sunday, the idea of the live event is maintained; the opening night screening this critic attended was almost filled to its entirety. Another smart roll of the dice by Swift and Co.
So much so, fellow musical pioneer Beyoncé will follow the same model (a documentary concert film of the ‘Renaissance World Tour’ and the creation of its album will hit cinemas within the next two months). My only criticism, however, concerns the editing during the more acoustic orientated performances; with so much evolution elsewhere, the cutting maintains that frenetic concert film hyper speed of different
vantages where long takes could’ve elongated these beautiful meanderings, expressly considering the twin albums of ‘Folklore’ and ‘Evermore’ whose conceptual direction stand outside of the main catalogue. A consideration for even greater evolution, perhaps. Ultimately, though, her self-confidence is undeniable because her success rests on her talent. And whatever ‘it’ is, she definitely has ‘it’. If you’ve ever wondered why Swift is where she is right now, or, more generally, what all the fuss is about, watch this.
‘Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour’ is in cinemas now: