Taylor Swift’s unparalleled concert film, “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” has raised the bar for filmed musical concerts.
The spectacle was filmed over three nights last August at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, and it’s not surprising that it Swiftly grossed $93 million in its opening screenings last weekend. It’s still in theaters, and is set for a 13-week run (with screenings only Thursdays through Sundays). If you’re a diehard fan, you’ve already seen it and screeched nirvana squeals, throughout its 2 hour-45 minute playout.
I’ve not been a Swiftie fan, but admit I’ve admired, from afar, her business tactics. At 33, she is the master of her craft with skills in collating tales that define her as a composer. I was curious to experience her glory on the movie screens, and have no regrets in buying tickets to the “Eras Tour.”
And in retrospect, “Eras Tour” was a revelation, demonstrating the singer’s acumen in packaging and showcasing her music, and it was a risk to launch such a behemoth endeavor, when audiences have mostly dodged the movie theaters this year. The last biggies on screen were summer’s “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” likely the big guns in next year’s Academy Awards.
“Eras Tour” is not the kind of flick that picks up Oscars. It could be deemed a documentary, but specifically, it’s a unique theatrical concert film.
Clearly, Swift is not a one-hit wonder, but instead a one-woman wonderment, delivering and curating her menu with 44 songs, many boasting admirable storylines, lifestyle vignettes, happy love and breakup blues, with original lyrics and melodies all penned by the singer herself.
The songs derive from nine of her 10 albums, themed with titles that reflect her moods and her succinct notions. She immerses herself in the moment, curating her tunes to elevate her storytelling.
Directed by Sam Wrench, “Eras Tour” is an experiment of sorts. It also is a damn good commercial for Swift’s successful tour — a sanitized showcase of the first leg of her global jaunt — which amassed $4.1 billion and unhinged Ticketmaster when tickets first went on sale. Her tour will continue in the summer of 2024 – a long wait — but with a $19.89 ticket price to see “Eras,” Swift is going to collect a lot more change. Most attendees, in the first go-round of the film, are likely folks who didn’t buy tickets to the live concert, because simply, they couldn’t — the demand was larger than the supply. The film documents, happily, what happened in the concert, so she’s double-dipping with the theater concert. Because of her deal in staging the film, the film producers (natch, she’s one of ‘em) and her partner family — thanks to a SAG strike agreement — supposedly will get 56 per cent of the grosses, without picketing. Ka-ching!
Swift is dressed to thrill. Her costumes run the gamut, from short shorts to pants outfits, from flowing gowns to oversized capes; if Swift’s not visible, she’s changing outfits, but much of the fashion plate changes happen before your eyes. When a jacket is removed, it reveals a short outfit; when a floor-length coat is removed, it reveals formal wear. And with her model-inspired lanky legs and fashion-savvy demeanor, she is never mundane or dull in dress, radiating a rainbow of hues including white, purple, gold, silver, orange, red, blue and more, with twinkling rhinestones, beads and sequins to embrace her bright and glittery galaxy of style.
And here’s the thing; if you’ve previously attended a concert on a football field, you get the gratuitous video that shows the performer on so-so-sized screens. In “Eras,” it’s a whole new era – you see Swift in actual size, with larger-than-life images dwarfing her and enabling spectators to truly see her greatness and glory. No lawn seat or upper-level stadium seating can match the enlargement element of this production.
A splendid corps of back-up singers and dancers, who provide not just harmonic pleasures for the ears, help fill out that long walkway and incredible varied platforms.
A small but effective live band – no, not a full orchestra, but a manageable unit — keeps the beat and tempo going.
The live visuals include the mixed crowd, defining her broad audience base, from screeching fanatics singing along, word for word (yep, they know all of Swift’s music by heart) but also flashing collectible wrist bracelets that clearly identify ‘em as Swifties. But this superstar also attracts gay men, who can challenge and keep pace with the young ones.
Swift is tireless and effusive, in every tune she delivers; unlike some unnamed women superstars of the past who lip-synched some tunes, notably on songs with rigorous choreography, she is a work horse who doesn’t rely on Teleprompter monitors to depict lyrics. She is the real deal, at the peak of her career, and second to none in the competitive pop circus.
She is all over the map — in the Kansas City Chiefs box because of a supposed relationship with a football hero, in a TV commercial boosting “Eras” during NFL primetime, hosting Beyonce at her “Eras” film launch, and even had time to chime in at the launch of the return of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
Swift is not afraid of the cameras, so she sings straight into the lens, making viewers feel like she’s conferring with them. The cameras also regularly scan the crowds, and show diehard fans — female and male – singing and dancing along. Everyone has a good time, including the theater fan, whose seat is prime whether the movie house is filled to the max or not; there’s no stress and strain of being in the nosebleed seats in the SoFi or in the last row on the field, where discomfort includes a mass of fellow fans and a long trek to the bathroom for relief. The movie? No strain to be part of the game, and you have the liberty to applaud or get on your feet to dance.
I can understand her reason to earmark her themes – “Fearless,” “Enchanted,” “Red,.” “1989,” “Lover,” “Folklore” — her version of catagorising –but I certainly could live without these subtitles.
I still wonder how her staging can be so fluid and organic, when Swift plays on a grand piano with moss-like greens on the precious instrument; the moss also is part of her tribute to nature in her house set with that green stuff on the roof.
But worry not, her playlist revives 44 titles and the ones I like best include “Anti-Hero,” “We Ae Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “Shake It Off,” “Betty,” “You Belong to Me,” “Love Story” and “Bad Blood.” Create your own besties at your screening.
I marvel at one special moment, when Swift is on the walkway heading for the stage, then leaps off the stage into what appears to be water, but clearly not. It’s an illusion that one might expect at a David Copperfield magic spectacle.
You know Swift has star power when the concession stand offers large soda drinks and that huge bucket of popcorn, branded with her image.
Surely, there will be a DVD version of “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,’” possibly a director’s cut with 45 minutes of footage trimmed from the original film. …
And that’s Show Biz. …