Despite dominating pop culture and music charts for over 15 years, we seem to be in the height of Taylor Swift’s popularity. From reclaiming the ownership of her master tapes and re-recording her old albums, Swift has successfully navigated a level of stardom we rarely see nowadays. Further elevated by her career-spanning Eras Tour, the singer/songwriter has genuinely become a phenomenon. In the more accessible form of a concert film, it’s a cinematic event. The Eras Tour is strictly a concert experience, in line with Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense. There’s no cutaway interviews or behind the scenes footage; just Swift and her outstanding show.
Capturing her groundbreaking concert over three shows at SoFi Stadium, director Sam Wrench’s concert film is a joyful and exuberant time spent, even for non-diehards. Editing down from the show’s 3.5 hour set to a more manageable 169 minute runtime, Swift takes audiences on a journey across her entire catalogue, spanning 10 albums over 17 years, and in the process, shows why she’s an undeniable star. Each era is given a handful of songs each, showcasing Swift’s versatility as a performer and as an artist.
Opening the show with her hit “Cruel Summer” off her 2019 album Lover, Swift immediately shows genuine gratitude and sincerity in her opening remarks. The bubbly pop anthems then transitions to the earthy, moss-covered backdrops of Evermore, her 2021 companion album to Folklore. From there, her sweet, dorky sense of humor and her personable attitude shines through the screen as we see the immediate chemistry she has with her adoring, rapturous fans — specifically, over 70,000 of them. It’s hard not getting swept up in the sheer showmanship on display, accentuated by the energetic direction of Sam Wrench.
The camerawork is cinematic, and often quite evocative. There’s a moment when Swift performs one of her worst songs, “Look What You Made Me Do”, and the camera does a 360 degree spin around her as she slinks across the stage. Wrench keeps the camera largely focused on Swift, without losing her amidst the grandiose production, which also seems tailored around not taking the attention away from its star. The film’s biggest highlight is Swift’s 10-minute rendition of “All Too Well” — which she also directed a superb dramatic music video for — which consists of her simply standing alone on a tall platform performing with her guitar. Some of the busy editing undercuts the dance choreography, but never to an excessive degree.
As expected, she plays her albums Red and 1989, both responsible for her most iconic pop hits “Blank Space”, “We Are Never, Ever, Ever Getting Back Together” and “Shake It Off”. It’s great to hear her older, undeniable classics like Love Story and You Belong With Me again. Whether you’ve heard the songs once, or hundreds of times, they are irresistibly performed, with a top-notch ensemble of dancers, backup singers and band members. However, when performs acoustic, or when she’s with her piano, the sense of intimacy between Swift and her audience is the most palpable.
Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour is a cultural touchstone for a reason. Whether her music appeals to you or not, this is a strong glimpse into a natural-born performer operating at the highest form of popstardom. Director Sam Wrench gives the audience a real front-row seat to a joyful concert experience that’s hard to resist.