Taylor Swift cannot dance – a harsh but very true statement – was said by many around us at London’s O2 Arena when she played the venue as part of her Red world tour.
Opening with ‘State of Grace’ from her 2012 album, Red, the show started with more of a lukewarm fizzle than the explosive bang you would usually expect when the pop divas come to town.
It takes seven songs until we get to the first big chart-topper in the shape of ’22’, but her army of teenage fans have been standing since the very beginning and silently mouthing the lyrics to each song as if they’re in a stunned state of shock. For the casual fan, though, this is the moment where it feels like things are finally underway.
Taylor drags out an already lean setlist by giving even Jessie J a masterclass on how to give preachy, self indulgent speeches between each and every song. Maybe we am just a cynic of love but we go to concerts to shake our bum, scream the lyrics out and twerk a little, not to be preached at about true love, the symbolisation of colours, the art of songwriting and how to handle pesky boys. The 12-year-old girls, however, were lapping it up.
We also can’t disguise our disappointment at the choice of guest act on the night we attended. During The Red World Tour, Taylor has been joined each night with a VIP guest to sing one of their biggest hits. Cher Lloyd, Jennifer Lopez, Ed Sheeran, Carly Simon and Ellie Goulding have all joined her at some point – but we ended up with Danny ‘bloody’ Donoghue from The Script. Credit where it’s due, though, their performance of ‘The Man Who Can’t Be Moved’ was a highlight of the night and the song suited Taylor perfectly.
It won’t surprise any readers that ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ and ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ were the biggest moments of the night – though Taylor often came under risk of being drowned out by the huge production on these numbers. It was ‘Love Story’ that reminded us why we first fell in love with Taylor.
There’s no encore here, but that’s fine – there’s a tube strike and 20,000 people at The O2 are starting to get anxious. (sidenote: it took just under three hours just to leave the venue.)
A skilled musician, it’s clear to see that Taylor is much more comfortable when behind a rhinestone laced guitar or a grand piano than she is parading around trying to pull off basic choreography.
Taylor’s entire career seems to be stuck in the middle of either heartfelt (but at times dreary) ballads or big, thumping uptempos which may work on radio but in a live environment comes off odd, as it is these huge numbers that expose all of Taylor’s weaknesses.
She’s a big talent, but we hope her next era is a little more stripped back.
The setlist for the concert at The O2 on Tuesday 4 February was:
- ‘State of Grace’
- ‘Holy Ground’
- ‘You Belong with Me’
- ‘The Lucky One’
- ‘Sparks Fly’
- ‘The Man Who Can’t Be Moved’ – Feat. Danny Donoghue of The Script
- ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’
- ‘All Too Well’
- ‘Love Story’
- ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’