Pop mastermind Taylor Swift opened her industry-disrupting Eras Tour on Friday, taking over Arizona's State Farm Stadium for a night of jaw-dropping visuals, potent power ballads, and bedazzled costumes strikingly coordinated with each chapter of her illustrious career. The 44-song tour de force, which began with Lover-era deep cut "Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince" and ended with the bubbly and biting "Karma," a fan-favorite track from 2022's Midnights, careened through all 10 of Swift's original albums, each of which received its own highly-personalized portion of the show.
Before diving into Fearless' "You Belong With Me," Swift asked the stadium if it was "ready to go back to high school" with her. And when it was time for Evermore, she made sure to note how much she loves the album "despite what some of you say on TikTok." Indeed, that parasocial relationship Swift has with her fans — perhaps one of the strongest in the music industry — was on full display Friday night, as she cheekily warned her acolytes that "I see it — I see all of it" ("it" being the content they post about her online).
From her 2006 debut, "Tim McGraw" was the only song Swift chose to honor, having opted to build out the Evermore, Folklore, Lover, and Midnights portions of the set instead. Speak Now fans were surely disappointed to hear only "Enchanted," the album's sweeping, Adam Young-dedicated pop epic, though perhaps that's because she (allegedly) plans to soon release the re-recorded project as Speak Now (Taylor's Version). Either way, diehard Swifties can rest at least somewhat easy knowing there will be one surprise acoustic performance each night of the tour, affording them a chance to hear those older, deep cuts at some point in the night. During Friday's opener, Swift selected Folklore's "Mirrorball," a song about her sense of self as a performer.
Of course, there were some celebrities among the 70,000 in attendance — actress Laura Dern, who has a cameo in the "Bejeweled" music video, actress Emma Stone, and all three members of HAIM were spotted rocking out at various points on Friday, while former NFL star JJ Watt (who appears to have attended the Saturday show) shared his thoughts on the evening in a Sunday morning TikTok: "She crushed it. And she didn't even look tired. I was tired and I was just sitting there!"
So far, reviews for the tour's opening performances have proven overwhelmingly positive, with most (like Watt) heralding the singer's endurance, as well as her unmatched dedication to putting on a mindblowing show. "Breaking: Taylor Swift is not simply a voice in our ears or an abstract concept to argue over at parties, but a flesh-and-blood being with a taste for sparkling pajamas and the stamina of a ram," wrote The Atlantic's Spencer Kornhaber, who alleged that Swift had "conjured actual magic" during her three-hour spectacle. "The concert," he said, "had been unbelievable, but so was the fact that this one human woman planned to do it again the next night, and for many after."
"The Eras Tour is a feat," Waiss David Aramesh similarly concluded for Rolling Stone. "It's live music at its highest spectacle and greatest excess. And for most, without the catalog and showmanship of Swift, it'd be too much. But 17 years into her career, maybe we ought to stop being surprised when she finds a way to top her own efforts year after year."
"Going album by album (or, era by era) in color-blocked, outfit-delineated segments (including two sparkling bodysuits, a ballgown, two ethereal dresses, a one-legged snake suit, and the outfit from the 22 music video), Swift packed more than many TikTok speculators thought possible into one show, with almost no breaks and seemingly endless stamina," mused The Guardian Adrian's Horton, whose only critique seemed to pertain to sound issues that she posited likely had less to do with "a tour or performance problem than the challenge of projecting sound to a stadium full of 70,000 people." At one point, Horton said, "the volume on her mic seemed to go wildly up and down."
And for The New York Times' Jon Caramanica, the show's peak was indisputably Swift's 10-minute performance of "All Too Well," the beloved and incising breakup ballad that received a minutes-long facelift when it was re-released in Nov. 2021. "Plenty were singing along with her," Caramanica wrote of the moment, "but somehow, the accumulated voices sounded like one huge hush, students in awe of the master class." The critic was less impressed with the Evermore portion of the night, which he described as "particularly limp" and awkwardly juxtaposed against the much rowdier Reputation chapter. The Folklore era "fared slightly better, especially 'Cardigan' and 'Betty,'" he continued, "but this section teetered toward melodrama, as if compensating for the less assured production on those songs." But if there were another "pillar performance" of the evening, for Caramanica it was "Tim McGraw," a song that "remained as raw as the day it was recorded." There were "no real tweaks" to the track, "no rejoinder from the new Swift to the old one — just a searing take on the sort of love that makes for a better song than relationship," something "Swift simply has understood all along."