Inside Speak Now: The New York Experience

Madison Square Garden

Real life is a funny thing.

Ah, but what does a 21 year old know about life? Well, as it turns out she knows plenty. The Always and Forever Fearless One has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time, and in that time she’s proved herself wise beyond her years.

And the best example of it is she has chosen to keep a young heart. Illusion, fantasy, romance and of course, music, fuel Taylor Swift’s old soul with a mix of childlike wonder and a love from the old and classic reflected on her style.

The jaded, the cynic and the bitter won’t find a home in a Taylor Swift concert. However, a few of them might just find a drop of wonder left behind in their hearts suddenly grow into an ocean.

Here at the Swift Agency, one guy who’s been lucky enough to go to a few of the Speak Now concerts, we’d like to warn you. If you’ve never read one of my concert reviews before, you might want to brace yourself. This is going to be a lot to read, and since this is the last concert of the Speak Now Tour North American leg, I’m not intending to hold back.

Madison Square Garden

I did have a few encounters before the concert, but I’m going to leave that for another entry (believe me this is going to be long enough). We’re going straight for that moment. You know the one I’m talking about, right? The curtains are closed, and the messages on the screen suddenly ask you to get loud, and louder, and louder.

The first chords of Tom Petty’s American Girl start to play. Almost every fan knows what it means. The first night, I received it with a mix of emotions. The second night, I was just so happy to be there for that last show.

It’s the screaming that does it, I think. I’ve tried to describe that sound before. It’s both happy and sad. It puts behind all the effort and the work to get here. Your exams, your annoying siblings, your schoolmates making fun of you, the weekend nights you stayed home saving up, the begging to your parents, the crappy late night shifts, all of that goes out of the window. She’s going to appear on that stage and the world is gone.

I know I might be repeating myself from another review here. It’s just hard to avoid getting caught in the moment again. Every concert at this stage feels like the first concert all over again.

The song ends, the welcome text begins and the impossibly loud screaming gets amazingly, crazy louder. Memories come flooding back from all the previous Speak Now concerts that I’ve had the pleasure of attending. This is the last, the ribbon on a lovely box of memories that will last a lifetime.

Sparks Fly

The curtain opens, the cheers have already reached a crescendo and I can feel the entire room take a breath. The hidden trapdoor at the head of the T-shaped catwalk opens. The smoke machine does its magic. A head of blonde curls rises up.

Drop everything now.

Sparks Fly is Taylor’s opening number. This song has the feeling of a younger Taylor, and it illustrates perfectly the transition from the Fearless years into the evolved Speak Now age. That being said, she’s always seem to still bring her younger self along with her grown up version.

Three aerialists glide down from the scenery with spark-shooting torches. I’ve seen it before, and I’m still in awe. Usually the Queen of Sparks pauses, then walks back to get the red electric guitar for Mine.

Mine

But she gives herself an extra second for a glimpse this time. A glimpse that had so much joy and at the same time, a bit of nostalgic sadness. Taylor knowns she’s not seeing this view for a while after tonight. You’re probably wondering if I’m telling you all this from the point of view of the concert on Monday, November 21 or Tuesday, November 22. To tell you the truth, I do know but it doesn’t matter. They’re both the closing concert in my opinion, merged into a fantastic mega-concert.

After Mine, she skips and jumps back to the front of her T-catwalk (cats are so cool) for a chat. She welcomes New York City to the Speak Now Tour, she introduces herself. She’s being nice and polite and funny as always but tonight she’s also being thankful. I believe her when she says she’s grateful for us to spend the night with her.

Yes, this show is well rehearsed but here and there, you can see Taylor ad lib some lines. You try improvising a show that contains trapdoors under your feet that open and close at regular intervals and let me know how that goes.

The Story Of Us

The Story Of Us is one of my personal favorite performances. Like I said before it’s close to a dance number, it’s lively, it’s happy and it’s about a break up. The Outspoken One and Grant Mickelson play the lead in the lovers’ quarrel. I really hope that is captured in the DVD because I’ve always found it hilarious.

This is the part where we have another of those of little pauses and here’s where Fernando Miro shows off his tap dancing skills while the stagehands are busy in the background. It’s the last time seeing Fer do his routine, right out of a broadway musical. He’s well loved for doing this.

It’s at the end of the routine that he has to pull the switches, the third of which brings T-Swizzle up -literally- on stage.

Our Song

This is when the Blonde With The Sparkly Guitar picks up the banjo, and gets joined on the fiddle by Caitlin Evanson in her Eunice persona. A short banjo and fiddle duet later and we’re into Our Song. It’s nice to hear this song, the only one remaining from her first album, on the last concert of the tour.

After Our Song, the Outspoken One takes another moment to thank the audience for her fan-voted AMA awards, including the Artist of the Year. She was warm. She was honest. Of course, I’m biased. I already trust her 🙂

Her speech ends up talking about nice people… and the not so nice ones. It’s time for Mean. Matilda the goat makes her last appearance. Ok, not true. The goat in the Mean video was called Matilda, this is only a prop. Taylor changes the lyrics at the end to “someday I’ll be living in New York City…” to thundering applause.

Back To December

The wind starts to blow, and silver confetti flies for Back To December. I love this song, and the timing is just right for it. However, at the start of the Speak Now Tour the transition between this song and Better Than Revenge was a bit forced.

I think that’s why the Sparkly Dressed changes the end to Apologize by One Republic adding a little taste of You’re Not Sorry. It adds that little edge that will tie in with Better Than Revenge later.

If there’s one line that makes people scream as hard as Sparks Fly‘s “Drop everything now” I’d say it’s Better Than Revenge‘s starting line, “Now stand in the corner and think about what you did.” I love all the hair-flipping in this one, and I’m glad Caitlin Evanson and Liz Huett still play the bad girls here. I miss them playing Tay’s friends during the wedding scene for Speak Now, which actually comes next.

But before that happens, The Agency’s lead guitarists will engage in battle. This is a friendly guitar duel courtesy of Grant Mickelson and Paul Sidoti, as filmed by me. Let’s go to the video!

Watch on YouTube

Here Comes The Bride

Speak Now as a song is not my favorite, but visually it is very much a colorful play. Watch out for Claire Callaway as The Bride. Marlyn Ortiz and Charity Baroni play Taylor’s accomplices here. I love this high-five they do behind the Outspoken One. Caitlin Evanson and Liz Huett are seated with the guests, singing backup.

It is during this scene, that I managed to be up to the rope in both Montreal and Nashville. I was on the tiered “floor” seats of the back section for November 21. So I got somewhat close to the tree but not to the rope. I couldn’t get floor for November 22. This is the rope that they use to keep people off the side and back corridors when Taylor walks to the back at the “run away now” line. And run away she does… across the crowd, shaking hands and giving a hug here and there until she reaches a platform with a tree in the back.

The Arm Lyrics were from Long Live on both nights. It was “May these memories break our fall” plus a few hearts on the first night, November 21, and “Bring all of pretenders, one day we will be remembered” on the last night, November 22.

Fearless

The Fearless One performs two acoustic songs while at the tree. One is Fearless, played on a ukelele. Yes, it is a happy song and another that I couldn’t wait to hear during the Fearless Tour. I just miss hearing it getting played on guitar. In this version, Taylor adds a little of Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours.

I am aware I’ve mentioned a lot of things you have heard before, but for this last review I thought I’d try to cover every aspect. I’m not going to get another chance. Just like a last kiss…

The other song, and a very, very powerful one, is Last Kiss. If I were to highlight the best song to illustrate the Queen of Sparks’ musical growth I wouldn’t be able to choose between Last Kiss and Dear John. Last Kiss has its own mood, its own sense of closure. It is not as much triumphant as Dear John becomes at the bridge but rather more of a farewell. Besides it’s got a pretty kicking bridge of its own:

Last Kiss

So I’ll watch your life in pictures
like I used to watch you sleep
And I’ll feel you forget me
like I used to watch you breathe
And I’ll keep up with our old friends
just to ask them how you are
I hope it’s nice where you are…

If you ever glanced back at the main stage, you’d see Caitlin Evanson playing the harp.

After Last Kiss, Taylor would usually do covers but not as of late, and she didn’t in New York City. My guess is that with a pretty busy schedule, she has opted to focus more on what guests she could bring. We’re not at that part yet though. This is the time for You Belong With Me.

Next to Love Story, You Belong With Me is known as the most famous song of T-Swizzle’s repertoire and the one most often covered by other artists. That also means everyone knows the words. Taylor returns to the stage with this song. She also brings out the dancers. Ever noticed the choreography of the song when the dancers pop out to dance? There are parts where it’s the same than cheerleaders from the Fearless Tour where this song was the opening number.

Dear John

Dear John comes up next with Grant Mickelson playing the part of the blues guitarist.

Recently during an interview with Leslie Stahl for 60 minutes, the Outspoken One had to pick one, if not the best line she’s ever written. Her response was the second line from the bridge of Dear John: “I’m shining like fireworks over your sad empty town.”

And of course, cue fireworks going off.

On November 22, Taylor introduces a guest at this point. Another singer who’s been friends with the Outspoken One for years and yet, they’ve never done a Duet until now.

Ladies and gentleman, joining the Sparkly Dressed on stage to sing Who Says, here’s one of her best friends, Selena Gomez:

Watch on YouTube

Enchanted

Enchanted starts with a little ballet to the music of Caitlin Evanson‘s fiddle. Finally the music changes to the notes we all know well, and the pleasant conversation starts.

This is one of the Enchantress’ songs that is a bit stressing on her voice, but she managed to pull through without any issues. She also does one very brief ballet move. Justin Boulet briefly raises her for just an instant.

Yes, I did notice the trees didn’t come down for Enchanted on Tuesday, November 22. Let’s pretend they bloomed late, ok? 😉

Haunted

And then, the lights dim…

The Sparkly Dressed runs away… and we’re off to the most dramatic performance of the night.

Yes, this is Haunted and for me it combines several of the best elements of Speak Now: Amos Heller gets to do a little magic on the bass, Taylor gets to play it up theater style and the aerialists scare the living daylights out of everyone when they come down from the bells. It’s kind of a swiftyfied act out of a musical (I’ve compared Haunted to an act of Notre-Dame de Paris before).

I wish I’d had a chance to see this one up close at least once. It has changed a bit since it started. For instance, Taylor didn’t use to actually hit the bell on account of the person being inside.

Haunted

Nowadays, it looks like she actually taps it, but I’m not sure if that’s what makes the bell shake or the aerialist inside does it when she feels the hit. I know, it’s a little effect but it does tie up the whole illusion nicely.

When the bells go up and the aerialists come down, I do get a bit worried thinking that bungee cord might fail…  I’m glad to report nothing bad happens and it all goes as planned. Meredith Ostrowsky pulls Taylor back and the bell hides them both. Applause from the crowd as the lights close in on the bell.

The bell rises and the Sparkly Dressed appears again, in a sparkly dress and with a sparkly guitar.

On November 21, she brought out the koa guitar and introduced John Rzeznik, lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls to perform a Duet of Iris.

Watch on YouTube

After that, the Outspoken One thanks once again the audience and does a little speech to introduce Long Live. In this song, she will bring over most of the members of the Agency to the front, except for Daniel Sadownick, David Cook and Al Wilson who can’t abandon their stations since they’re playing.

Here’s one thing that changed in November 22. The Fearless One mentions she doesn’t usually introduce her band (she used to do it early in the tour) but that she believes they deserve to have their names called on Madison Square Garden. For the last night of the Tour she introduced every member and I cheered for every single one (I might or might not have whistled when Liz was mentioned).

So, following her example, here is the most fearless and outspoken band of all, The Agency!

Long Live

On the bass, Amos Heller!
On the guitar, Grant Mickelson!
On the fiddle, Caitlin Evanson!
On the guitar, Paul Sidoti!
On background vocals, Liz Huett!
On every instrument imaginable, Mike Meadows!
On the drums, Al Wilson!
On the keyboards, David Cook!
On the congas, Daniel Sadownick!

Note: Yes, I’m aware she might have introduced them a bit differently. Caitlin was playing a guitar at the time, but I can’t say her name and not mention her fiddle. I’m taking a little creative license here.

This is the end of the show. The curtains close. Good night, New York City!

Yeah, right. Suuuure. Nobody’s buying it.

The curtains open again, and the Enchantress is alone in the couch. She says for this one it will only be her and her guitar. Then tells us about how when you fall in love there’s people who always want to give you their unasked opinion and advice. She even says in her case, it ends up in embarrassing magazine articles. This is when she sings Ours.

Fifteen

After that, it’s the time for Fifteen.

On November 22, there was a slight change of plans. That Tuesday, last day of the show, the Outspoken One wanted to share that she usually hated going to choir practice when she was little except for one song: Fire And Rain by James Taylor. Then she told us that when she shared this with her mom, she got an unusual answer.

Andrea Swift had told her young daughter that it was very interesting she liked that song because the Fearless One is named after James Taylor.

And then, like it was the most normal thing in the world, James Taylor appears on stage to sing a Duet of Fire And Rain with Taylor Swift. He even stuck around for Fifteen!

Watch on YouTube

Love Story

And then we move on to the real final number of the show, Love Story. This is the one song that Taylor remembers as the song of her one teenage tantrum. It was also written by herself, and competes with You Belong With Me for her most iconic song ever.

Love Story is great but live, I can’t wait to be over because Taylor’s ride in the flying balcony just makes me nervous. I know she must be safe and 13 Management probably has requested a hundred counter-measures to make sure that thing doesn’t endanger T-Swizzle but still I’m praying every second she’s up there.

At the song’s bridge, confetti flies and then you can just feel the ending coming… As the Queen of Sparks descends and lands safely, you know what this means. It’s over. The tour of tours is over, and there will never be anything like it.

Finale

On the last night of the Speak Now Tour, Taylor receives the final applause with both her guests, James Taylor and Selena Gomez. As the curtain closes, there’s something in everyone’s throat that gets caught. It’s like we don’t want it to ever close. But every show has to end sometime.

Taylor Swift has proven once more an unmatched Entertainer of the Year and a reigning Artist of the Year, but there is no way she could ever make a greater show, a more impressive concert or a tour more amazing than-

Wait, she’s done that before though, right?

Remember the Fearless Tour? Unforgettable. Nobody expected Speak Now to live up to the hype, yet it did. The Speak Now World Tour is not even complete yet. Australia and New Zealand are announced and scheduled next year.

And after that, there will be another album. And another tour. She will come back as long as you want her back. And with luck, you’ll be able to go. And perhaps others will want to go too. Perhaps you should tell them about Speak Now.

Tell them how the crowds went wild.
Tell them how I hope they shine.

Long live.

Thanks to Steve Ditch’s YouTube channel for the videos. All pictures in this post, unless stated otherwise, were taken by me.

(Source: The Swift Agency)

9 thoughts on “Inside Speak Now: The New York Experience

  1. jts

    Also, I have not seen this mentioned on Twitter or anything but did anyone notice (or remember) The Arm Lyrics for the 1st show, “Speak Now/ Help Now”, were from “Who Says” by Selena. For the last show of the tour we have a duet of that same song with Selena. Full circle.

  2. 13SparksFly13

    “You try improvising a show that contains trapdoors under your feet that open and close at regular intervals and let me know how that goes.”

    I love reading your blogs, but it’s these cryptic comments that are hidden in the text that ensure I read every line!

    Long Live!

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