Taylor Swift is one of those artists who truly needs no introduction. OK, briefly: she began writing songs at age 14 and really started to hit it big in 2008 with her then country-pop sound. Since then, she’s had some shifts in musical styles – and has sold more than 200 million records and won 12 Grammy awards. She’s one of those rare artists to make the move from pop star to cultural icon.
In 2023, Taylor Swift has taken the country by storm with the Eras Tour, the first tour Swift has undertaken since late 2018. Since then, Swift has released four albums: Lover (2019), Folklore (2020), Evermore (2020), and Midnights (2022) while also re-recording and releasing several “Taylor’s Version” remakes of her older works. (She doesn’t possess the rights to the masters of her first six studio albums, because of a dispute with her former record label. She’s been re-recording those albums.)
Taylor Swift’s the Eras Tour will end up being one of the biggest of all time; a tour that anyone who is reading this has no doubt heard about. The Eras Tour is so named because it’s a journey through all of Swift’s musical “eras.” Encompassing 131 shows from March 2023 through August 2024, there’s been no escaping how big this tour was – and how hard it was for many fans to get tickets. Ticketmaster controversies aside, Taylor Swift has owned summer 2023.
Taylor Swift at Empower Field at Mile High. All images courtesy of TAS Rights Management.
She made a stop in Denver on July 15 and 16, and the week of the shows you could feel the excitement growing among everyone from city officials to local media to Denver fans who were lucky enough to get a ticket. Every local news channel had several stories revolving around the Eras Tour, covering its size and scope, noting how much revenue Denver was going to see from the two nights, and asking which era fans were from and noting how to dress for that era. I had never seen anything like it before.
I was extremely fortunate to make it to one of two sold out nights at Empower Field at Mile High, which was a feat no artist had ever done on a single tour. As the date approached my excitement grew and grew.
The morning of July 15 was not unlike most, starting with a coffee and breakfast, but it quickly turned into a bit of a whirlwind. My fiancé and I got dressed for our “Era,” which for me was just a breezy linen shirt and a tiny snake pin to represent the Redemption album, but my fiancé went all out for the show with a curated outfit from one of Taylor Swift’s red-carpet appearances. And so began our journey to the show.
With doors to the concert opening at 4:30 p.m. we thought we would outsmart the traffic and go a brewery across from the stadium at 1:00 p.m. to kill some time. Little did we know that thousands of people would have the same idea. Traffic was already flooding the streets, and as we approached the stadium, you could see the swarms of fans filling the nearby restaurants, bars, and lining up at the various merch stands outside of the stadium. Raices Brewing Company had special Swift cocktails and was playing Taylor Swift music, and the Swifties were in force, making and trading friendship bracelets and dancing to the music. We even met a mother and daughter who had driven from Cheyenne, Montana without tickets to the sold-out concert, in hopes that they would be able to score tickets at the last minute. Again, nothing that I have ever seen before.
After a couple of hours soaking in the lovely community who are the Swifties, we made our way to the stadium.
As we waited in line to get inside the stadium, we met more people from outside of Colorado who were unable to get tickets to a tour stop closer to their home. People from St. Louis, Kansas City, Minnesota, and Canada, as well as every corner of Colorado and even overseas, and those were just the few people near me in line or near my seat. Not only were people traveling from everywhere for the show, but almost everyone had elaborate outfits. In a sea of color and sequins and even some ball gowns, I definitely felt a little underdressed. I saw multigenerational groups all in their favorite era colors, and husbands and fathers wearing funny shirts to show support for their spouse or daughter. I saw little children with their grandparents in matching outfits. I would not have believed it without seeing it for myself, and the outfits should have tipped me off to what was going to unfold once Taylor Swift hit the stage.
At 7:50 p.m. a two-minute countdown appeared on the screens and the crowd absolutely erupted – and that was probably the tamest the crowd would be from that point forward. As Taylor appeared on stage, behind dancers who were wearing large, flowing fan-like extensions, the already-excited crowd hit the stratosphere. Thankfully I went prepared with my trusty concert ear plugs, but even with those I could still feel the force of the crowd. It was surreal. And with that Taylor’s on-stage marathon began.
With 10 studio albums over 17 years (sometimes it’s hard to believe she’s been around that long) to pull from, there was no shortage of musical variety on the set list. All of which made sense as Taylor explained the concept of the Eras Tour, and how she wanted to let the fans enjoy not only the songs from the four albums released since her last tour, but also celebrate the Taylor’s Version re-releases. Each album (Era) had its portion of the show, and each Era had elaborate set changes, visuals, and outfit changes, complete with instruments that matched the themes of the Eras, and even microphones to match.
No detail was overlooked. The 10 set changes also meant 10 outfit changes, and the most impressive part of all that was how quickly Taylor theatrically left the stage and then theatrically returned to the stage. Even the most elaborate outfit changes had a kind of sleight-of-hand that had the audience watching a well-choreographed routine by her dancers as Taylor emerged on the other side of the stage, or featured visuals like a fish swimming up the stage after Taylor dove in from one end. Some of my favorite sets included an open-faced cabin that Taylor and her team of dancers would go up and down from; or portions of the stage rising with Taylor and her band as the music and visuals transitioned from one Era to the next.
My favorite set piece was a beautiful-sounding piano decorated in moss to fit the aesthetic of the Evermore portion of the setlist, where Taylor, in a gorgeous yellow floral dress, played stripped-down piano versions of “Champagne Problems,” “Marjorie,” and “Tolerate It” in front of a set that resembled an enchanted forest. The costume designer for the show deserves tremendous credit, as each outfit change was more beautiful than the last and also helped drive the excitement of each portion of the show.
Each set of songs had its own vibe and feelings to it, making the show feel like 10 concerts carefully and thoughtfully woven into one. Some of the Eras had me feeling like I did when I first heard the albums. Although I never considered myself a “Swiftie,” Taylor and her music played a major role in music and pop culture as a whole over the last 17 years, so I knew way more songs than I thought I would. Singing along to songs you enjoyed back in 2006, 2008, 2010 and until now, it makes you appreciate how talented Taylor is. How much she loves what she does was also very much apparent. At one moment, with 73,000 fans singing in unison with Taylor, you could see her emotion and the appreciation she had, almost coming to tears. I could hardly believe what I was seeing as I looked around the stadium at the sea of people all there for one person. But Taylor took it all in stride, keeping everyone entertained at every moment.
As the night went on, I found myself in complete awe as Taylor Swift just kept going and going. The quality of her performance never dipped; her voice was as amazing from the first song to the last. The choreography also had Taylor and the dancers running back and forth from what looked to be at least a 60-yard stage. I, on the other hand, struggled to stay standing the entire time, and looking around, I saw there were many other people in the same boat as I was but the electricity from the crowd and the spectacle on the stage kept everyone going.
As soon as I would take my seat another set change would happen or pyrotechnics would go off. There was never a dull moment, and I have to say there was definitely not a bad seat in the house. Taylor Swift’s team went into this tour prepared to make sure every fan in attendance would get an unforgettable experience. With some of the best-sounding audio at a concert that I have experienced, to massive 100-plus-foot screens at the front and sides of the stage, and color-changing LED wristbands for each fan in attendance, even the most skeptical would have had the time of their life.
Three hours and twenty minutes was the run time, with hardly a minute break in between sets and no intermissions, and I am sure Taylor logged miles running up and down the stage. To call this show impressive feels like an understatement. I have been to some exceptional concerts, but none have offered the attention to detail or the energy level and stamina that was showcased at Empower Field on July 15, 2023 – and I don’t think any other show will ever be able to top how powerful and commanding Taylor Swift was on that stage. I was skeptical of the hype going in, but I walked away understanding why this tour was the show of the year. It was a night I’ll never forget.
Taylor Swift Setlist, Empower Field at Mile High, July 15, 2023
Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince
You Need to Calm Down
You Belong With Me
'tis the damn season
Ready for It?
Don't Blame Me
Look What You Made Me Do
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
I Knew You Were Trouble
All Too Well
the last great american dynasty
my tears ricochet
Shake It Off
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