The following will probably be the last of the Inside Speak Now articles. At this point, where most of the concert details have been given away, I don’t believe it’s important to be warning you this gives you an inside view into the concert. It was also my last concert of the Speak Now Tour. After this, I consider most of this information public domain… or at least public domain of the Taylor Nation 🙂
Drop everything now.
Lots of people go to a concert expecting different things. I could write wonders about the Sparkly Dressed and give you the false impression that anyone who attends Speak Now will have a wonderful time. That’s not quite true.
You need to let go a bit of your barriers when you go to see Taylor Swift in concert. You need to let her do her magic. If you’re not willing, there’s little chance that you’ll enjoy it. If you’re scared or nervous, she might still be able to pull you in.
You know how it starts. There’s a red curtain. Tom Petty’s American Girl starts blaring. In most As the lights dim and the song finishes, there’s a familiar sound that is heard. It’s Taylor Swift’s favorite sound ever. In my past concert experiences I’ve aimed to describe it but I can’t. I have discovered that I love this sound too. Just makes the venue feel like home for some reason.
I’m going to assume you’re interested in what happens next?
Sparks Fly is the opening number for the Speak Now Tour. It’s flashy, it’s sparkly, and the Sparkly Dressed appears in a cloud of smoke from beneath the stage.
It’s at this point that the weariness and the wait and the hunger go away, and you either become emotionally involved with the experience or this is just a bunch of noise.
Have you noticed the Fearless Tour finished in a downpour and the Speak Now Tour has pyro? Watch out.
Taylor follows the fiery Sparks Fly with the more relaxed Mine. There’s usually a reason she ties songs together. One is dedicated to the crush, the initial spark. The other is the span of the entire relationship.
This is the moment that Taylor stops and talks. Everyone’s listening. She talks about being back home. She talks about Nashville being her favorite place. On Friday, she even acknowledged two certain girls from the UK that were visiting Nashville for the first time. I’m making this review for both Friday and Saturday. It just felt like one big show.
The Outspoken One hardly needs to introduce herself, but the fact that she always does and she does it the same way she has done it since she started is a statement in my book. She’s trying to tell us she’s the same person, but I don’t believe it. She’s grown. She still doesn’t think too much of herself, but she’s grown as a person and as an entertainer.
The show re-starts with what could be the closest to a dancing song that the Queen of Sparks has written: The Story Of Us. It’s also a bit of a contradiction. A song about the awkward moment of running into an ex with a happy tempo that makes you want to dance. Out comes the Speak Now Dance Crew! I was lucky enough to meet quite a few of them in Nashville, but we’re going to leave the encounters for a next chapter.
The stage gets dark as the stagehands move scenery into place. However, what gets your eye is a guy sweeping the floor. It’s Fernando Miro, who tap dances and jumps across the stage. We know where he’s going… he’s going to the panel of levers on the other side. One of these finally makes a familiar figure literally pop up and onto the stage.
The scene is set for Our Song, which has been brought back from Taylor’s first album into the show. I’m glad T-Swizzle takes her time by strumming the banjo and then bringing out Caitlin Evanson (or to be precise Eunice, her alter ego) for a little instrumental duet.
At this moment, Taylor takes another pause. She will share something with you. It might be corny, it might be a local shoutout, it might be just she telling the crowd how beautiful they look. Yes, she’s playing for the crowd, but it’s heartfelt. And then she tells us all how nice we are, and how not everyone is nice.
Easy segway into Mean, which I can tell based on whispers around me is being awaited with great anticipation. This is another of those contradictions: a lively melody about a mean person.
There’s a sound of a strong wind… the lights go out in the stage except for a few that highlight confetti falling down from the ceiling. It’s the sound of winter. A very ornamented arched walkway makes its descent from above.
It’s Back To December, and it represents yet another change in mood. It’s a cold season, and a time in which Tay realizes she herself treated someone unfairly. It’s also the time for the Outspoken One to show her skills at the keys of a white piano, as they both emerge from below. There is no change in the lyrics this time to “the boy from Michigan” like she did back in Los Angeles, this time it’s the original version right until the point she goes into Apologize by One Republic. She also adds a little from You’re Not Sorry right at the end.
Here’s where the Sparkly Dressed throws kind of a curve… there’s a sound wave on screen and a female voicemail greeting. Taylor leaves a message that we know very well: “Now stand in the corner and think about what you did.”
Better Than Revenge has changed very little from the Asian leg of Speak Now, except that Taylor is now standing on top of the walkway. It’s an unlikely song for her.
Not everyone has heard this song. The style and the lyrics are definitely different that anything that Taylor has done before. It’s unexpected – but still welcome. I’d love for this song to be a single at some point…
The Arm Lyrics for Nashville where:
“Be a best friend. Tell the truth. Overuse ‘I love you.’” – Lee Brice, Love Like Crazy. September 16, 2011.
“This one’s for the girls who love without holding back.” – Martina McBride. This One’s For The Girls. September 17, 2011.
Organ music is heard as the stage takes the distinct appearance of a church. Up from the T-shaped catwalk rises Claire Callaway as The Bride. Justin Boulet plays the groom. Dominique Kelley plays the priest. This is the setup for Speak Now.
I’m not terribly in love with the melody of this song, but visually it works great. It’s also the song in which you will see a few people slide off their seats and sneak to the back since they know that close to the ending the uninvited blonde guest will end up running away into the crowd.
And run she does…
For the first time ever, I ran to the small stage with the tree on it halfway into the song. Don’t quote me on the timing, in the end it comes down to luck.
The Enchantress breaks out the ukelele to sing Fearless, which she later will mix into Jason Mraz’ I’m Yours. After that she will take out the blue guitar to sing one of the best songs she’s ever made: Last Kiss. This song has some of the best lyrics and most unforgettable musical bridges I’ve ever heard.
At this time, the Outspoken One decides it’s time for a Cover. The chosen song for both Nashville shows was David Mead’s Nashville. Go ahead and listen:
The Sparkly Dressed returns to the central stage to the tune of You Belong With Me, which she turns into a full blown sing along. This is the song popularly considered as her crossover hit.
It’s a real stretch, but Taylor changes from this song into Dear John. I think both songs are complete opposites in her songwriting spectrum, but she sometimes she picks contrast on purpose. Dear John is a blues number, and regardless on who it’s inspired (and I do stress inspired) on, it’s a very grown up song about letting go of a crush. The bridge is followed by an impressive fireworks display.
On September 16, Taylor brought to the stage her friend Hayley Williams from Paramore to sing That’s What You Get:
On September 17, she brought out Kenny Chesney to sing a duet of his hit Big Star:
Enchanted starts with a bit of ballet from Claire Callaway, later joined by Dominique Kelley and the rest of the dancers. Meanwhile, Caitlin Evanson plays a violin solo that will slowly turn into the familiar first notes of Enchanted.
For the Enchantress this song is a bit of a challenge. The song has a lot of high notes and requires her to push her boundaries. On her first shows, the critics used to point out this is the song in which Taylor’s voice shows its limit or becomes shrilly. I couldn’t tell you. I wasn’t there. But I was there on both Friday and Saturday, and if there was a mistake I didn’t catch it. I wasn’t looking for one though.
It’s at this point that you will notice that families with small children tend to disappear. It is a long show, but I think it’s also a coincidence that the next song coming along is the only “scary” song that Taylor has in her repertoire.
The stage goes dark, the notes are ominous, and I can see Amos showing off his skills on the bass. Huge church-like bells (with the roman numeral XIII for thirteen) are raised from the stage. The Queen of Sparks walks over with a mace, takes aim and hits it.
If you went to the Speak Now… Help Now dress rehearsal for charity, you will notice a difference. Taylor used to stop short of hitting the bell. Now she actually hits it. It’s not actually a bell, of course. The dancer inside actually makes the bell shake. It’s a small detail but it completes the illusion.
I love the visuals of this song. It’s just a feast of theatrics. It’s like watching a play right out of a musical production. To top it off, we get aerialists. It’s the Outspoken One gone goth. It’s Taylor acting out a scene out of Notre-Dame de Paris. Oh, in case you haven’t figured out I love this song played out on stage.
On Saturday, September 17, Taylor re-emerged at this point to bring out Andy Grammer for a Duet of his hit Keep Your Head Up.
Here’s the part where Taylor seamlessly moves onto arena rock. Long Live is a rock anthem. It makes you feel nostalgic about the concert even though it’s still going on. It’s bittersweet, but overall triumphant. There’s no dancing to this one. The Agency joins Taylor as she introduces them as her other family. Pictures from blogs and backstage footage of her meeting fans show on screen. There’s at least one fan in there that I know by name.
This song plays to the crowd. It’s like one of those tunes they play at a baseball game. You just want to join in. It’s written for you. It’s also the last song before the encore.
As the curtains open again, Taylor re-emerges sitting on the couch for the encore. Here’s where she brought out Ronnie Dunn. He appeared on stage with her on the couch on Friday, September 16 to sing Bleed Red:
On Saturday, September 17 Taylor appeared with her own personal hero: Tim McGraw himself. The crowd went wild. They sang a duet of Just To See You Smile:
With the couch in place, the Blonde with the Sparkly Guitar is ready to introduce Fifteen. Taylor used to introduce everyone in the band by name during Long Live. However, while fans want her concert to last longer, I’m sure the venue would like nothing else but finishing early. I’d still love if she took the time to introduce The Agency but I’m guessing compromises had to be made.
So now during Fifteen, the band joins the Fearless One on the couch while images of each member float on the screen, each of them at fifteen and now. It’s still nice, but I do wish she would still name each person.
Half of the concert happens on stage. The other half is when that unpopular, awkward, geeky, nerdy, dreamer side of you that is on guard for the rest of the world realizes it’s time to come out and play. The Speak Now experience is both music and drama, it’s both theater and circus, it’s opera with a little country thrown in. There’s so much happening around you that it might overload your senses but you can’t help but look.
By the time that the notes to Love Story, the last of the Taylor Swift stories we get to hear tonight, there’s constant applause and cheering. This last ride on board the flying balcony is the Sparkly Dressed’s victory lap and her good bye to her fans below. At that point you know this is the last time you see her and by then you should have fallen head over heels for the Queen of Sparks.
Was it worth the early morning flights, the endless waiting outside for a glimpse of any of the band members? Am I smiling and crying at the same time? As you put Taylor back in the back of your mind, guarded by all the precious memories you took from the concert and forget all the bad ones, I hope you agree with me that it was worth thirteen times what you had to endure.
We’ll meet one day, Taylor Swift. The sun will be shining and it will be a beautiful day. A day that will be remembered.
Oh yeah, I do have some pictures for you to look at, not to mention a few people that I encountered that day… coming soon 😉
Coming up in the Calendar!
- September 20: Speak Now tour in Bossier City, Lousiana at CenturyTel Center. Click here for ticket info.
- September 21: Speak Now tour in Tulsa, Oklahoma at Bank of Oklahoma Center. Sold Out.
- September 24: Speak Now tour in Kansas City, Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium. Click here for ticket info.
- September 27: Speak Now tour in Denver, Colorado at Pepsi Center. Sold Out.
- September 28: Speak Now tour in Salt Lake City, Utah at Energy Solutions Arena. Sold Out.