Taylor Swift at Wembley Stadium review: a celebratory blaze through her greatest hits


There are not many artists out there capable of playing Wembley Stadium – and with her lengthy run of Eras Tour dates this summer at the 90,000 capacity venue, Taylor Swift will become the first ever solo artist to sell it out eight times over.

On Friday night the record-breaking artist kicked off her historic residency with a celebratory blaze through her greatest hits. “What an absolute honour it is to say these words: London, welcome to the Eras Tour,” she declared.

Already the highest grossing concert tour in history, the Eras Tour pays tribute to Swift’s vast discography, spanning from 2007’s Speak Now (her self-titled 2006 debut is the only record absent from the setlist) to this year’s underwhelming The Tortured Poet’s Department, making stops for all of the hits along the way.

Divided up into orderly sections, split neatly by album, it raced between the folksy lockdown records Folklore and Evermore – both produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner – to the feel-good synth-pop of her breakthrough album 1989, Fearless’ fist-clenching romanticism, and the choppier, dubstep influenced standouts from Red.

The rigid structure gave the show the feeling of a journey through time, but being backloaded with her newest material meant that it lost momentum slightly towards the end.

Throughout the epic, three and a half hour show, Swift was a charismatic presence, effortlessly conjuring up intimacy despite the sheer enormity of her surroundings. Well-positioned cameras captured her every reaction; from an off-mic exclamation of “oh my God” to Swift carefully placing her bowler hat onto the head of a completely overwhelmed young fan.

The singer put in a marathon shift, seamlessly transitioning from big hits like Shake It Off and I Knew You Were Trouble, to a 10-minute long All Too Well.

At times, underwhelming production let things down; stock image candles, a slapstick act featuring a procession of mimes, and a t-shirt that whipped off like a tabard all felt less pop production, and more panto.

During Evermore’s opener Willow she resembled an extra from The Traitors, while Blank Space featured an nonsensical fleet of neon Lime bikes careering around the catwalk. During But Daddy I Love Him, a computerised landscape of flaming trees flickered in the background, while Look What You Made Me Do saw the singer theatrically spanking a cheerleader, who was helplessly trapped in a glass box.

Compared to the section dedicated to Folklore and Evermore – which came accompanied by a gorgeous, moss-covered cabin – or the distinct, black and white aesthetic of The Tortured Poets Department, these moments lacked any kind of cohesion.

Despite the rich tapestry of symbols and references Swift has crafted throughout her career, many are absent from the staging – also at the London shows omitting capital-themed tracks London Boy and So Long, London feels like a missed opportunity.

Rather than unnecessary bells and whistles, Swift was at her best when she stripped things back to basics and let raw emotion take the wheel. Surprise set inclusions The Black Dog (for its first ever live performance) and Hits Different were greeted like number one singles rather than back catalogue deep cuts, while elsewhere Champagne Problems prompted an ovation lasting almost three minutes.

And the roar of almost 90,000 fans – light-up wristbands aloft in the air and singing along at the top of their lungs to every note – is something potent and special that you don’t hear every day.

Taylor Swift plays Wembley Stadium 22 and 23 June, and 15-20 August