Taylor Swift, City of Lover Concert: Commentary

She’s your Lover, Taylor Nation.

Taylor Swift released her City of Lover Concert yesterday night, May 17, on ABC. The event was not available on Canada unless you had that channel through cable or other means. After only glimpses last night, I managed to catch the full event this morning through Disney+. It’s also available through Hulu. Audio is now available on Spotify and YouTube, which at least I can embed here for your convenience.

Overall, a great but brief concert that clocks at 40 minutes in one sitting. Here at the Swift Agency, just a guy that is cooking at home a lot more often, we appreciate the acoustic solo performances more than the bombastic productions. This comes with added bias in this case, as the two numbers that get the full band treatment are the tracks that I rate musically weaker of the album. On the other hand, the ones that shine for me got the solo spotlight and sounded even better. Let us get down to the details.

The aired special was edited down from the original live event. You probably remember the full live event had a longer set list, but this broadcast set list was considerable shorter. Basically, only the Lover tracks made the cut:

  • 🎵 ME!
  • 🎵 The Archer
  • 🎸 Death By a Thousand Cuts
  • 🎸 Cornelia Street
  • 🎸 The Man
  • 🎹 Daylight
  • 🎵 YNTCD
  • 🎵 Lover

There’s probably a story on why the rest of the songs were not cleared, but it’s not one to discuss here. Yet. Let’s focus on the concert now.

“ME!” got the full band (The Agency is still here) and background vocalist treatment (The Starlights too) with added background tracks for trumpets and the works. Still, this song doesn’t really live up to T’s bangers. Sorry, I gotta be honest here. I still find it rather weak of a song. In the full concert, it was followed with “I Knew You Were Trouble” which has a lot more of a kick. That song was sorely missed here. The album Lover lacks a kickass concert opener, but I respect that in Taylor’s vision that kind of song wouldn’t fit the album theme.

“The Archer” is rather subdued, but it does contain a little emotional lightning-in-a-bottle moments that grab you. Taylor still had the band and the backup singers for this one, but it’s less evident. The song still has the same treatment than the album’s production which doesn’t add anything new but it has grown on me since the first listen. There’s considerable turmoil bubbling underneath its surface. Definitely not as dramatic a power ballad as other tracks in the album but it has something to say.

“Death By A Thousand Cuts” marks the moment where I properly became fully invested in the concert. This song has sharp edges and claws, and it doesn’t let go from the moment it starts to the finish line. And yes, I’m biased and it’s one of my favorite songs and to top it off, it gets the acoustic treatment so this is where Taylor’s talent for performing and songwriting outshines the spotlight on her. When this song ended I let out a breath that I didn’t notice I was holding. This was properly amazing and Taylor at her best.

To follow up with “Cornelia Street” is almost unfair. This is another favorite of mine from Lover, and it also got the acoustic treatment. Emotionally charged enough with nostalgia, this song has vibes just a notch below the likes of “All Too Well”. I’m not saying it’s as much of a storm drama as that one, but it definitely ranks in its vicinity. It was a delight to see “Cornelia Street” have its day on that stage and it was just Taylor and the guitar.

Up next is “The Man” and this has one, in case you’ve forgotten, has video:

Yes, “The Man” was released on video from this concert by Taylor back in February, remember? I know, it feels like that happened a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? The song got the acoustic treatment way before a proper and hilarious music video was released. Much has been said about its lyrics and video, but acoustically it does feel augmented. It also helps that’s one of those songs audiences love to sing along back at Taylor.

I think “Daylight” is one of those songs I have to apologize about. I didn’t give this song justice on the first listen but I’ve edited my full album review to reflect its growth. Definitely shines brighter on piano. Again, if you remember the full set list, the original performance was a meld with “Red” which I wish we can listen to someday.

I don’t think “You Need To Calm Down” needed the full production treatment, but it got one. To be fair, it was promo season and the song was still just getting played so we had to get familiar with it. I don’t dislike the song, it is lyrically significant and it has a lot of added value, but musically it’s a bit just there. There’s not much going in melody, not even a bridge to speak off.

Okey, we all know that “Lover” was not the original closer of this event and that Taylor seldom finishes a concert with a goodbye speech. It’s obvious she went out with “Shake It Off” but that song wasn’t clear because reasons. However, I don’t want to take the spotlight from how good “Lover” is. I love how the melody flows and grows here. It’s a declaration of love written by Taylor Swift and sung by Taylor Swift. It’s brilliant. The bridge is just a thing of beauty. It’s meant for her lover, but I can’t help but feel that it’s somehow meant for her audience too.

Overall, it does fit like a shortened version. You sort of wish the rest of the album was there, if at all to give you a full experience of a concert rather than the 40 minutes we have. I wish there was more behind the scenes takes and footage with Taylor and some shenanigans with The Agency to make it more of an experience but it was never envisioned that way originally. Considering the added value of the acoustic performances, I’d definitely add it to my repeat watchlist.

On other news, we’re still waiting for other news and I mean some good news. I really want to stop having to see numbers and charts in my newsfeed. Stay strong out there.

Coming up in the Calendar:

  • May 18: The City of Lover Concert is available on Hulu and Disney+.

(Sources: Taylor Swift. Featured Image: Dave Hogan/ABA/Getty Images)