3.5 out of 5
December 4, Allianz Stadium, Moore Park
To fill a stadium, a proper pop superstar needs more than merely 40,000 die-hard fans. He or she also needs to have an appealing personality, a heap of irresistible anthems and enough slick visuals to make those who have come to see them feel like they've got their money's worth (not to mention to keep them engaged while they wait for them during costume changes and the like). A bit of genuine musical talent doesn't hurt, either.
American phenomenon Taylor Swift, 24 next week yet already a seven-year music-industry veteran, displays all of these qualities during her tour for current album Red – including the talent – yet weighs down what could have been a perfect stadium pop show by stretching barely an album’s worth of material (most of Red, including some of its weaker tunes, plus a handful of oldies) over nearly two hours.
For seemingly every other opportunity Swift takes to display her redoubtable skills on banjo (Mean), piano (All Too Well) or even just with melody (We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together) she seems to have a long speech to make on the hardships of love and how she pours her wealth of experience into her songwriting. Did we mention she’s 23?
Of course, to her fans, many of whom got to stay up way past their bedtimes with their long-suffering parents to see this show, Swift is a fountain of knowledge. And, more importantly, she does connect with just about all 40,000 of them, be it via sweetly handing her trilby to a disbelieving fan in the front row or performing a mini-set on a stage at the back for the fans in the (still not that) cheap seats.
She has seamlessly made the transition from country sweetheart to teen-pop titan and it’s hard to argue with the inventive, dubstep-infused I Knew You Were Trouble or the rousing You Belong with Me, which shows off her strong voice as well her guitar playing.
Yet for all her abilities and well-studied stadium techniques, there remain, tellingly, a few things for her to learn. Next time Swift could really cause some trouble.