Shortly after meeting the Agency (you might want to read the Fearless Experience, Part One) I approached the closest gate noticing they were opening the doors to let people in. The ticket worked.
My seat was floor right, row 6. That turned to be right on the right side of the stage walkway which is T shaped. Coincidence? Fortunately I was not further up otherwise you end up looking back at anyone who is in the walkway.
Rumors say pit passes are given out by her tour manager for people who are early by the buses. That didn’t happen here. In the case with this venue, you entered a contest by texting.
I also hear now that there was a T-Party after all. No, I never got approached. I did approach someone from security carrying wristbands but she couldn’t tell me how they’re won. That didn’t make my experience any less amazing or this day any less than perfect.
Gloriana started up the show right on time, opening with How Far Do You Wanna Go? They were playing without a band, but there was no pre-recorded voice track. I can at least confirm Mike Gossin switched guitars three or four times for what ended being a five song set.
All four of them went right up front of the ramp, so Tom was mostly hidden from me by his brother. Cheyenne and Rachel Reinert would work the sides so I’d get to see one of them coming over often. Gloriana went out with a bang, playing Wild At Heart which was received with shouting and got everyone off their seats.
Kellie Pickler came out to a rousing applause. She started off with The Best Days Of Your Life, which was greatly received. Kellie kept it simple. Just her and the band. She doesn’t do a lot of dancing. She wears this sparkly super high heeled platform shoes. Her vocals are in fine shape. She spoke just a little and went into her set which did include Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You. She closed her show with Red High Heels, which was echoed by everyone in the audience.
FEARLESS: The Review
I thought I knew everything that had to be known for this concert. I knew the set list. I knew the opening video. I knew what was going to happen and when. But you don’t know how it feels until you’ve been there and that’s the key.
I knew nothing.
The lights go out, and if you thought you’ve heard screaming before this will challenge your senses. You can hear sound bouncing off the walls. Heartbeat thumping starts and scenes from Taylor’s past videos flash on the screen to the beat. The scenes from the opening video come in. They’ve been updated. The country stars remain. You see Faith Hill, you see Garth Brooks. The teen stars are gone (if there was any there I missed it). Instead you see fragments of Taylor’s acceptance speeches. The beat reaches it’s crescendo and I know what’s happening next. But without having lived it, it’s not really there.
Curtain goes up, and the stage is revealed in full high school mode. The dancers fan out in full cheerleader regalia and acrobatics. The Fearless One emerges in band leader gear. The Agency is awaiting in the wings – the side stairs that lead up. I can’t see the left one. But I do see Liz Huett, Grant Mickelson and Amos Heller on the right one. Coincidentally enough, these are my favorite people right now since I’ve met and chatted briefly with all three. I know Caitlin Evanson, Paul Sidoti and Mike Meadows must be on the left side.
Taylor Swift’s vocals are nothing short of amazing. You might think her range is limited, but I hardly can agree there. I found she has got more than the range required. She’s in her element here.
As she goes into Our Song. I start to realize something else. Often enough critics say Taylor has crossed over into pop. There is an element of pop music but I found that if I had to define what I saw last night, I would have to say this is Country Rock Opera. Taylor acts out every song, and she’s feeling it every time.
She pauses and welcomes us to the tour. When she goes “I’m Taylor” with her sing-song voice your heart melts. Her dialog is mostly the same in every stop but as much rehearsed as it can be it rings true. She goes into Tell My Why and later on, we get another bit of dialog before going into Fearless. I wish I’d get one chance to get the panoramic view of this song when almost every single member, save for Al Wilson, is up front. Al remains perched atop his raised platform for most of the show.
The lighthearted play continues with Teardrops On My Guitar. Brandon Stansell, another of the fearless dancers, plays Drew in this piece. Claire Callaway joins to dance with “Drew” as Taylor keeps singing.
Tay brings the mood down and heavy for Forever And Always. You can’t see this and not think Rock Opera. This song becomes a cathartic experience for Taylor. After an intro based off her NBC Dateline special, she appears on set throws a tantrum that involves hurling a chair (it’s foam, it gets picked up on the spot and retired almost instantly). The cheer from the audience is empathic – yes, this is what happens. Taylor’s going through the motions of every relationship. If she fell in love in the beginning then this is the ultimate, disastrous, break up.
With the mood low, the Crimes of Passion video comes in. I’ve been told what to do – run to the small stage and see if I get a Taylor hug. But I’m fighting a cough that could be a cold and then there’s a huge debate going in my head. Do I go for a hug or stay back? The last thing I want to do is get Taylor sick. The video is halfway done and I take one crazy decision. I turn to the girls right beside me and tell them what’s going to happen. They go, and I follow intending to stay at a distance.
What happens is Taylor sings Hey Stephen from one of the distant exits in the back and then walks to the small stage hugging everyone in the way. In the end I only got halfway. Security stopped me. She then stays there to sing Fifteen.
Then she goes into Tim McGraw. It’s for this last song that Taylor asks everyone who has anything that glows, a stick or a phone, to hold it up. She’s trying to create a moment for you and if you let her, you will have it. I did.
During all these proceedings, the Agency is on stage playing along. Al Wilson and his drums have been lowered to the stage and for the first time, the Agency is fully assembled together. This is one picture I wanted to capture so that’s why I walk back to my seat while Tay is going through the rest of the crowd making her way to the front of the stage still hugging everyone in her path.
We then get a beautiful acoustic rendition of White Horse. It’s her and the guitar. Liz and Caitlin don’t sing along, they only intervene as background vocals (you know, the “ahh’s” and the “ooh’s”) at key points.
It is White Horse where she shows her true mettle as a full grown vocalist. And then you get the moment where Taylor stops and everyone screams for what seems to be an eternity. She takes off her headphones (those feed her voice back to her, in case you didn’t know) and soaks it in.
Yes, she does this every time. Yes, I do believe she falls in love with the crowd every time she does it. Call me a fool. I’ve been called worse. MuchMusic made fun of me on camera while I was waiting by the buses. Top that.
After she finishes, she hands over her guitar and as she walks off around the curtain stage, she is helped by Jonathan Carey in full period piece costume. She hints about going back in time as she disappears.
Jonathan is joined by Clifton Pierce and Brandon Stansell in similar costumes. Charity Baroni, Claire Callaway and Lacey Mason come out in dresses. There’s a brief dance performance that has most of the audience with their mouth open. The classic piece morphs in with a rendition of Love Story on violins in the background.
Finally the familiar tune kicks in and Love Story starts. After all the sad moments, this is an uplifting one in which Taylor defiantly decides to keep believing in fairy tales. You’ve probably seen this performance to death on YouTube and reviewed a hundred times. It’s the Fearless One’s magnum opus, her most defining song and performance. It also gives her the chance to pull up one of her favorite tricks: the on-stage costume change. She lives for them. One lucky member of the audience gets her hairband in the end. And then, as the lights dim she dashes away like Cinderella.
You’re Not Sorry comes along, with the Fearless One taking the piano while the stage is covered in fog. During the performance she covers Justin Timberlake’s What Goes Around. It’s a bit of a relapse into a moody piece that ends with one very strong statement even spelled out on the screen: you got what you deserved. She emphasizes it by pointing straight out ahead. There’s a bit of warning and a door slammed in your face with that performance. Very, very direct and very operatic too.
There’s a great solo guitar performance of Grant Mickelson before going into That’s The Way I Loved You. He’s truly a master at his craft. Dude’s got skills. I taped a bit of it, I couldn’t help myself. I’ll put that up on YouTube at some point. Once the song begins, Jonathan Carey plays the serious guy side on this song while Grant is the wicked side. I should’ve taken a picture of Grant’s pointy witch-looking shoes.
After that, Amos comes out to have us practice shouting/screaming. He basically has everyone screaming in turn and then directs us as if he was playing an instrument. We then get the encore with Picture To Burn, which gets an ovation as one of Taylor’s oldies and is completely sung along by everyone as the stage appears to be on fire.
Later on we get Today Is A Fairytale. That one has Taylor emerging in a jersey of the city’s hockey team (the Toronto Leafs). What I wouldn’t give to see Taylor in a Habs jersey! (That’s the Montreal hockey team, the Canadians). We also get scenes from Valentine’s Day on the big screen with Taylor Lautner. To top it off, confetti cannons are shot and we get showered by heart shaped confetti. It’s corny, it’s a bit silly, and it works.
That brings us to the closing number of the show which is in three parts. It starts with the beginning of the song You Should’ve Said No for which Taylor takes off the jersey. The fact that Taylor took it off on stage was enough to garner some whistling from some of the guys. I could heard the girls beside me gasping for breath. Relax, Taylor had her little black dress underneath. She uses an electric guitar on that song. When she threw away that guitar pick, a thousand hands went up to grab it. She then has an often talked about drum battle with her fiddle player, the amazing Caitlin Evanson. Yes, Al is on drums and perhaps he’s adding the definitive beat but they’re the ones marking the tempo. Taylor triumphs at the end and then I get one of the oldest forum questions answered.
The Fearless One switches mikes at this point, with nobody noticing. The mike she leaves behind before her drum battle is not the same one she picks up. I’ve always known that. She’s done that since the first time she ever did this performance at the CMT Awards. The question has always been: is it a waterproof mike, or is it a dead mike and Taylor lip syncs the last part of You Should’ve Said No?
I’ve always maintain she’s the one singing but on faith alone. Now I know.
Taylor starts singing the last lines of You Should’ve Said No while an actual waterfall cascades onto the stage. A few instants before a roadie actually lays some sort of soaking rug to prevent too much splashing but I’m sure the people in the pit are getting a few drops. Words are actually projected on the water as Taylor walks over to it and then in one quick jump, stands right underneath it. As she sings, Caitlin and Liz are still backing her up on the microphones. Then they step away as Taylor sings the last line and holds onto the last note. She does sing it. There’s nobody else on stage at that point. They’re all backing away behind the line for the curtain fall. I wish there was video to proof some naysayers but that was the last moment of the show and I knew that was the last appearance of Taylor on stage. I was not seeing that behind the lens of a camera. It was the last moment and I took it in.
This is no simple concert experience. It’s one that will make a fan out of you if you let it. Taylor will try and make it better for even people sitting in the bad seats. The huge screens are high definition. The lighting shows every single color vividly. The stage is made up of backlit projection screens. Taylor appears at some point from a random point in the back of the venue. She’s extremely happy giving you potential moments to relive again and again.
She’s not just merely singing, she’s performing. She’s giving you both an aural and visual experience that you can cherish. You’re not going home after this concert without this concert in your mind, in your heart, and in your soul. A regular concert goer will see this, but a true Taylor fan will live this and be proud to say they were fearless for one night. And for me, that day, that Friday May 21st, 2010…
… it’s Fearless.
– Agustin, Fearless Friday May 21st, 2010
(Source: The Swift Agency. All the pictures are mine this time too.)