Review: Taylor Swift’s “The 1989 World Tour Live”

Even a year after releasing her first pop album, “1989″, Taylor Swift doesn’t look set on letting her most successful album be forgotten. On Sunday (20/12), the megastar released a tour documentary, exclusively on Apple Music, titled The 1989 World Tour Live.

The two-hour long film allows fans to experience a 1989 show for the first time or to simply relive their own concert. Swift also grants her millions of fans exclusive backstage access, starring celebrity friends Wiz Khalifa, Selena Gomez and Mick Jagger – just to name a few.

Filmed at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, “The 1989 World Tour Live” demonstrates the grand scale on which this 26-year-old has planned her shows, with the largest attendance of the tour: 76,000. The show is nothing short of mesmerising pyrotechnics, impressive choreography and united screams from the audience.

The documentary begins with a galactic crowd, flashing lights against a pitch black backdrop. Swift’s voice over narrates, “I wondered what it would be like to perform for 70,000 people.”

The speckled darkness of the stadium is illuminated and neon signs welcome Sydney fans to the 1989 World Tour.

Swift appears on the main stage with a sparkling purple ensemble and sunglasses disguising her expression, but not her identity. As she finally throws her sunglasses into the ecstatic crowd, the show really kicks off. The graphics designers experiment with Matrix-esque big screen ideas – a digital display of vibrant colours to match the bouncy tune about the Big Apple. Ironically, Swift welcomes the Australian fans with the first track on her record: “Welcome to New York“.

The exhilarating performance sets the mood for the rest of the concert. Even the more pensive “New Romantics” has the crowd chanting along because “we are too busy dancing to get knocked off our feet.” The cinematography of green light beams connecting one shot to another is executed so well, you can’t be blamed for getting dizzy.

Jacket off, the singer proclaims:

“I was born in 1989.”

The first cut-away scene of the tour documentary begins with Swift’s commentary on hit single, “Blank Space“. Speaking about the media perception of her “serial dater” image, the popstar boldly states, “If they want to paint this picture – cool,”

“I’ll write a song from that perspective and see how you like it.”

She then went on to say that the track ended up being the “biggest song I’ve ever had.”

Fast forward almost a year after releasing the hit, Swift finds herself facing away from a horde of 76,000 loving fans who know every single word to the song. Magnified silhouettes of her dancers grace the big screens as the opening lyrics are sung.

The singer flaunts a sequined black jumpsuit as she hits her marks on stage. “Blank Space“, along with its music video, has always struck fans as a mysterious song – one you would expect to hear in Alice in Wonderland – and this performance only adds fuel to this mood. With her playful winks and sauntering stride, Swift entrances the entire stadium, despite the bluntly satirical song.

Another reason the Pennsylvania native successfully ticks all the boxes for charisma is that she deviates from the standard singing. Swift incorporates an effortless loop pedal sequence during the bridge of “Blank Space“, starting with an inflected “Sydney!”. Her voice is looped, syncopated to the beat of her metal cane against a bar on the catwalk stage. It doesn’t take long before the singer recites “boys only want love if it’s torture,” and harmonises with herself multiple times, creating a thick layer of superb vocals.

It’s difficult to think that there was ever a time when the music maestro doubted herself, but that’s more or less to do with the fact that 2014 was such a career-defining year for Swift and the past just seems so distant. Of course, she has overcome many disappointments, as with any artist, and she certainly doesn’t shy away from admitting it.

In the documentary, Swift muses on the Grammy for “Album of the Year”, which evaded her hands following the release of fourth album “Red“. She claims she woke up in the middle of the night – 4 A.M. to be exact – and knew something had to change. She would craft a completely  different album from her previous one.

1989” would go on to sell over 5.5 million copies.

One of the most well-received tracks on said album is a simple melodic song about emancipation called “Clean“. The live performance of the song does not fall short in its delivery. In fact, it’s certainly the standout of the entire tour documentary. The stage setup is simple: the artist vocalises times of both helplessness and discovery (“when I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe,”) while she is carried on a crane into a sea of blue lights. The footage is perhaps the most flattering vocally, as a handful of the other songs’ performances fall flat. In a whirlwind of dancing chaos, overpowering instrumentation and colourful lights – which see the singer’s voice almost inaudible – Swift stuns effortlessly in a stripped back performance.

All in all, the film meets all the criteria for a successful tour documentary, with not only the live concert integrated with spectacular visual continuity, but also truly insightful commentary on Swift’s part. For the fans, “The 1989 World Tour Live” will come as no surprise – you already know the 1989 World Tour and you most certainly know Taylor Swift. However, for any doubters out there, this two-hour film will surely alter your perception of the popstar’s vocal, theatrical and intellectual capabilities.

Even with her forthcoming hiatus from music, Taylor Swift never ceases to amaze.


Watch the trailer for “The 1989 World Tour Live” below!


Written by Uyen