'Swift's appeal lies in her willingness to admit to her own flaws and insecurities'
Alexandra Pollard

18:36 28th June 2015

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“Trust me, I love the internet. But every day we go online, and we scroll through the highlight reel of other people’s awesome lives.” Taylor Swift is harnessed to a gently rotating, elevated runway, stood still for the first time in a long time, and looking out with a look of earnest wonder at a Hyde Park that is currently filled with 65,000 people. “But we don’t see the highlight reel of our own awesome lives.”

The truth that goes unsaid, of course, is that in the highlight reel of Taylor Swift’s life, this gig probably wouldn’t even make it into the director’s cut. But tonight, she is doing everything in her power to make us forget that.

Both musically and culturally, Taylor Swift is a force to be reckoned with. That fact is something that a certain demographic of middle aged pundits, thanks to her recent success in single-handedly forcing Apple to backtrack on their non-royalty policy, have only just begun to get their heads around. But for a generation of young fans (mostly teenage girls – probably the reason she’s been so overlooked) Swift’s strength and influence is no new revelation.

It’s perhaps a misnomer to define her with such words though, given that much of Swift’s appeal lies in her willingness to admit, and even own, her own flaws and insecurities. Onstage, though her charm and charisma is disarmingly palpable, she’s also at times physically awkward – unsure quite how to manage her limbs inbetween the moments of theatrical choreography. Rather than letting this awkwardness manifest itself in stillness, she bounds unapologetically across the stage, pausing only to occasionally collapse, dramatically, onto the floor. By the third song, there’s sweat dripping down her face.

Though at this point in an exhaustive - and no doubt exhausting - world tour, you’d perhaps forgive her for doing so, there is never a moment that feels phoned in. Even songs like ‘Love Story’, a wistful, naïve country song from which Swift has long since transformed, are given the 1989 treatment, coated in electronic drum beats and synthy keyboards. Introducing it, she explains the song’s inception with a self-mocking tone: “I decided to do Romeo and Juliet justice where Shakespeare had not.”

Several times throughout the night, while Swift is off stage changing costumes, a montage of her many famous friends appears on the screen – Lena Dunham, Cara Delevingne, Haim, Karlie Kloss, Selena Gomez, all waxing lyrical on the benefits of female friendship and empowerment. Later on, midway through a rendition of ‘Style’, many of these women appear onstage in the flesh, flanked by a Union Jack-waving Cara Delevingne. Serena Williams turns up too, because she’s here for Wimbledon, and Kendall Jenner, because why not?

Then it’s back to the motivational speeches. “You are the only one that’s inside your brain hearing all the voices telling you that you can’t be who you want to be,” she preaches, the crowd hanging on her every word, “Or that you’re not who you want to be. You are not somebody else’s opinion of you. You are not going nowhere just because you’re not where you want to be yet. You are not damaged goods just because you have made mistakes in your life.” It’s probably rehearsed. She’s probably recited more or less the same speech time and time again across the world – but that doesn’t make the sentiment any less authentic, or the effect it has on her fans any less real.

As the set ends and her fans disperse onto trains, buses, taxis, their light-up wristbands still occasionally flashing multi-coloured when they collide with one another, too distracted by a sort of elated exhaustion to navigate the crowd unscathed, something Swift said recently in an interview springs to mind: “I want to make the most of this cultural relevance, or success, or whatever you want to call it, because it’s not going to last. I have to be as good a person as I can while my name matters to them. Because it’s not always going to matter.” For now, though, Taylor Swift matters a great deal – and that is a wonderful thing.

Taylor Swift played:

Welcome to New York
New Romantics
Blank Space
I Knew You Were Trouble
I Wish You Would
How You Get the Girl
I Know Places
All You Had to Do Was Stay
You Are in Love
Love Story
Bad Blood
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
This Love
Wildest Dreams (contains an element of "Enchanted")
Out of the Woods
Shake It Off

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Photo: WENN