The Real Taylor Swift – 13-13

This summer has been very cool, after a long cold winter. In fact, this summer has been so cold that it is easy to forget how unbelievably hot last summer was. It was in the peak of the heatwave in 2013 that Taylor Swift gave an outdoor concert at the Meadowlands in New Jersey as part or her Red tour, and East Coast Stories was there on July 13, 2013.

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Taylor has not had good luck with outdoor concerts. When she gave one in Boston she was caught on stage in a torrential freezing cold rain storm that left her unable to perform  for several weeks. In New Jersey she had the opposite weather problem. It was 95 degrees and 85 percent humidity at an outdoor concert with no shade.

The crowd started to arrive hours before the event and the first thing they noticed was the large police presence. These were not ordinary crowd control police. These guys were dressed in full battle gear with bullet-proof vests, helmets and M16s . It turned out that the government intelligence services had picked up what was later described as a “credible terrorist threat”. Taylor Swift had been notified of this, but the crowd at the time did not know. We just thought the police were a little over the top with the battle gear. After all, it’s not like it was a hockey game.

If you have never been to a Taylor Swift concert then you may not be prepared for the crowd. They don’t just watch the event. They are an integral part of the show. A lot of the people are in costumes relating to the various videos Taylor has done. People have intricate hand-made signs that light up.  Despite the heat the woman next to us was dressed in a full body cat suit with fur. We were afraid that at any moment she would pass out from the heat and we would have to carry her out.

The concert was in Metlife stadium where this year the Super Bowl was played. We were lucky enough to get seats on the field, near the stage. Before the concert starts, Taylor’s mother comes out and walks through the crowd.  She does this every concert and picks out about 10 or 15 people who get invited to come back stage at the end of the concert to have pizza and soda with Taylor herself. They usually get picked based on how good their costumes are and how enthusiastic behave. A fellow near us got picked. Since it was the Red tour, a lot of people had dressed in red, but this guy had gone the extra step. He had fashioned a costume made entirely out of those giant red plastic beer cups you see at every company picnic. He was wearing hundreds of them including a hat made from them. He looked like an enormous red porcupine with beer cups instead of quills.

There was a stir in the crowd as the concert was about to start. No, you don’t get to see Taylor right away. There are two warmup groups first. There was Florida Georgia Line which is a good but not well known country band. After them came Ed Sheeran who has the hit song The A team.

Ed Sheeran is an incredibly energetic performer. He has no band, so we were expecting him to sit and play the guitar and sing a series of sad songs like The A Team. It turns out that is not his style. He has his guitar fixed up so that it can do repeating and even drum  sounds, which makes him a one man band by himself.   He gets the audience on its feet and singing along with him. He runs around the stage and jumps onto the speakers, at one point coming very close to falling off and into the audience., all without missing a beat.  And he was doing this in 95 degree heat.

The Sun went down we all expected the air to begin to cool. That did not happen. There was no breeze and the stadium was now so packed it was actually hotter than it had been when the show started.

Then came the big moment. Taylor appeared on stage. The noise was unbelievable. Not from the amplifiers, but from the crowd.   A Taylor Swift concert is not just a concert. It is a complete stage show, with multiple scenes, costumes, dancers, acrobats and, of course, music.  Taylor herself not only sings but dances and jumps around the stage. She never hangs back. She works from the very front of the stage getting as close to the audience as possible,  We were hot just sitting in the audience. She must have been roasting.

At one point in the concert she actually walks  through the crowd and sits on a small back stage so that a different part of the audience can see her.

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The pictures we took at that point are a little different than those you usually see of Taylor Swift, and they are not the clearest. However if you look closely you can see that she is drenched in sweat and her hair is matted down and dripping. Despite that, she never once faltered in her singing and never complained about the heat or the lack of air flow. She was on stage and moving constantly for over three hours giving everything she had for her fans.

When the concert was over and we were leaving we noticed that there were about a thousand people who were in lawn chairs in the parking lot. It turns out that a lot of people who could not get tickets sat in the parking lot just to hear the music.

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The parking lot was still being patrolled by police with M16 rifles. Now that we know about the terrorist threat it does not seem as far fetched as you might think. It was not just about having a big crowd in one place. Taylor Swift herself is exactly the kind of woman who groups like Al Queda are afraid of. She is beautiful, intelligent, talented and ambitious.  None of her songs are the old time county tunes about “standing by your man” even when he treats you badly or cheats on you. Her songs  all about women who stand up for themselves and don’t allow anyone to mistreat them. Like her song Should’ve Said No.

When some people think of Taylor Swift they visualize one of her pictures from a magazine ad when her hair and makeup are perfect. When we think of the real Taylor Swift we think of someone  who gave 100% for a group of fans in New Jersey despite a death threat and blistering heat. She is beautiful, strong, talented, and never ever Mean.


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