In the opening moments of Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, the 33-year-old superstar whips her head around to make eye contact with the camera. She's presented in such detail that we can see the light reflecting off her sequin bodysuit glimmer on her skin. It's an angle very few members of her audience would have seen in the 70,000-seat stadiums she's packed on her ongoing record-breaking tour. The just-released live show movie, which compiles six performances at SoFi Stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood, is the only conceivable way any and every Swiftie can look the singer-songwriter in the eye.
Eras Tour is many things, but how it will impact audiences the most is as an equalizer, bringing Swift's exorbitantly-priced show to viewers at movie theater ticket prices.
On a practical level, Eras Tour is also a money-making vertical. It's an advertisement for red-heeled Christian Louboutin shoes and SoFi online bank, which pays $30 million a year to have the stadium bear its name. As a monument, Eras Tour is a compendium of Swift's 17-year career. It's a record-breaking live concert film, gathering $130 million globally its opening weekend to match the tour's already history-making show sizes and lawsuit-inspiring ticketing disasters.
We went into Eras Tour ready for dancing, singing, crying, and plenty of in-theater phone use. After all, even the Almo Drafthouse—famous for its no talking, no texting house rules—agreed to bend them for this film.
At the beginning, the screams of our theater's young teens mixed richly with those of Swift's August 2023 audiences. Eras Tour employs a cool cinematic device: When Swift points to sections of the crowd and draws cheers, the theater's surround sound reproduces the rolling audio waves. We saw many Swift rituals observed—friendship bracelet exchanges and the double claps during "You Belong With Me." However, despite assurances from our neighboring seatmates that they were ready to sing, most of the sold-out crowd seemed too entertained by the show to do anything but contently watch rapt with awe.
During "Vigilante Shit" someone in the back went for broke, shouting "Mother is mothering!" which we liked, just as we liked dancer Kameron Saunders' flowing hand work and dip in "Bejeweled." As ball culture continues to permeate the zeitgeist, we're happy to see an active ballroom participant like Saunders performing its fundamentals in the spotlight.
Eras Tour provides plenty of opportunities to better see the talent of Swift's backup dancers and singers, especially as some have numbers where they play a central character, like Natalie Reid as Rebekah Harkness in "Last Great American Dynasty." Karen Chuang stole our hearts early on with her facial expressions, and we looked for her throughout.
Swift's live show is a pop concert, but the choreography shifted in tone between cabaret, musical, and fashion catwalk. We marveled at the maneuvers employed to make traversing the length of her stage interesting each time, be they squad strides, funeral marches, or youthful skipping.
Watching Eras Tour in theaters, an approach:
Before watching Eras Tour, I identified as a casual Swift fan—still do. I didn't know how to dress up for the concert (sparkles, pink, country vibes), but her songs do frequently live rent free in my head. So the Swifties know how they'll observe the rituals at this show, but for the rest, here's my advice to get the most out of the screening.
Firstly, see it as big as possible. As if the music video for "Anti-Hero" were a prelude to our newfound desire for big Swift, there's something about a 40-foot-tall Taylor Swift that just feels right. During the movie's initial moments I turned to my friend and hissed, "Finally! She's as big as she is pretty."
Second, pick a dancer and look for them throughout the show. This approach actually helped me notice the other performers better, and gave me an appreciation for their individual contributions.
Third, let her fans be on their phones. I was surprised that, in our sold-out screening of 300, I saw far less flash video than I've seen at music shows for alleged adults. Two-hours in, I began to see some texting from both the younger fans and adults chaperoning. What's happening onscreen is dazzling enough that it wasn't a distraction, and I appreciated those of them who were reading Mercury articles—thank you!
Fourth—this will be controversial—your bathroom break is within the ten-minute “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)." When I saw my whole row was going, I knew I should follow, and it worked out. If you wait past that you'll end up in Folklore, and there's not a missable moment to be had.
I wanted to see Eras Tour like I wanted to see something sparkly. I didn't anticipate that what our sister paper's reviewer wrote about the live show for The Stranger would prove true for me too. To Hannah Krieg, the Eras Tour felt like watching her life flash before her eyes. Swift played my memories, as well, like yet another instrument she's mastered. I recalled the Mercury's office-wide discussion of Reputation's first single "Look What You Made Me Do," and a disastrous attempt at singing "Blank Space" which taught me not to sing songs longer than three minutes at karaoke.
And though Swift comments, during the film, that she and her fans can make new memories to go with the songs, I don't feel a need to overwrite Swift's 17-year career. A lot of the time, her songs were playing when I learned things.
Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour is a wide released and currently showing at Regal Meridian, AMC Pacific Place, Varsity Theatre, AMC Seattle 10, Historic Admiral, SIFF Cinema Uptown, and the Grand Cinema.
This review was originally published by our besties at Portland Mercury.