Some of the world’s finest musicians have entered the cavernous EnergySolutions Arena over the years.
These talents have ranged from one-name divas such as Cher, Wynonna and Reba to piano playing geniuses such as Billy Joel and Elton John. Mick Jagger snarled his way through several concerts here and U2 brought its socially conscious high tech show to this stage. Bob Dylan and Paul Simon performed many of their musical masterpieces not far from the spot Taylor Swift made her grand entrance Saturday night.
As a musician, Swift has a long ways to go to equal those legendary performers. But, hey, she’s only 23 years old so who knows where her career will be when she is 70? Right now, she’s on top of the world, selling more records and filling more arenas than anyone.
One thing is certain. As purely an entertainer, she can hold her own with any of the greats. I’ve seen a lot of acts at the ESA over the years, and only a few could match Swift’s combination of unmistakable charisma and ability to connect with an audience.
I didn’t get the phenomenon by simply listening to Swift’s music. And I certainly didn’t understand what was perhaps the most electric pre-concert atmosphere I’ve ever experienced was all about.
As a grandfather who nervously took my 9-year-old granddaughter to her first big concert on Saturday, I also didn’t realize how well the performer relates to young women. I left appreciating the way she talked about the difficulties of growing up through break-ups, first loves, bullies and day dreams. For one so young, she imparted some wonderful wisdom by managing to turn a 14,0000-seat basketball arena into a surprisingly intimate concert venue.
“The only thing that’s predictable about life is that it is it’s unpredictable,” she said at one point.
“Don’t be mean to other people,” Swift advised at another point, something that a teen might buy from a superstar but not a grandfather.
From a technical standpoint, this was an amazing show filled with dancers, Blue Man Group-style drumming, numerous costume changes, two multi-level stages, stilt-wearing clowns, video screens galore, fireworks and the sound dialed in better than I’ve probably ever heard at ESA.
Swift’s fans made the show even more fun. They waved bling, flashing signs, hand-lettered signs and flickering cell phones during the entire concert. Even my nine-year-old date seemed to know the words to most of the 17-song set by heart.
Why, ultimately, do folks shell out hundreds of dollars to see a star such as Swift? They can, after all, spend $15 on her latest album and listen all the way want.
But they would miss creative staging, getting a sense of the performer’s personality and talent, and all the tricks that made this giant production of wind-up dolls, carousels, candleabras, lights and sound wonderful.
From the moment Swift strolled on the stage in tight leather black shorts, white top and red shoes clutching a red phone singing State of Grace until she disappeared in a cloud of confetti after ending with her hit We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, Swift was a commanding, polite and charismatic presence
She has a wonderful voice, isn’t afraid to share the stage for a duet with talented warm-up singer Ed Sheeran, or to strut her stuff with her talented troupe of dancers.
When she introduced the song “Mean” by urging teen girls in the audience to treat others with kindness, something many teens struggle with, I could have cheered.
Being honest, there is a certain sameness to Swift’s songs, most of which she wrote herself. I’d be more inclined to stick Dylan, Brad Paisely, Paul McCartney or even Pat Benatar CDs into my player. But I am certainly not in her demographic. I can, however, appreciate a good show.
Swift has a wonderful voice, is a beautiful woman and possesses a strong, winning stage presence. I don’t imagine anyone left Saturday night disappointed. She painted Salt Lake City “Red” on a Saturday night, sending the crowd home happy.