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Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour comes to France: A day in the life of a Swiftie newbie

Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour: A day in the life of a Swiftie newbie
Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour: A day in the life of a Swiftie newbie Copyright David Mouriquand
Copyright David Mouriquand
By David Mouriquand
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Taylor Swift comes to France with her Eras Tour, and our writer David Mouriquand pops his Swift concert cherry in Lyon. He walks you through his day, his gig, his thoughts, his photos, and whether or not this experience has transformed him into a card-carrying Swiftie.

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Monday 3 June 

08:00

The Swiftiness starts earlier than I’d anticipated. On my way to work, three young women in the metro are discussing their day plans.  

They’d been to her first gig in Lyon last night and had woken up alarmingly early, from what I overheard of their conversation. Their plan was to sleuth out where TayTay was staying and camp outside the hotel, in hopes of catching a glimpse of the superstar on her way to the second concert tonight.  

Good luck to them, as that must be one of the closest guarded secrets in France right now. Still, I don’t intervene to tell them they’d be better off going to the Institut Lumière - the birthplace of cinema – instead. Time better spent, sure, but who am I to shatter their sweet if stalkerish aspirations?  

09:00 

I’m at the office and my colleagues are starting to trickle in.  

“Excited for the big night?” 

I share that I’m actually feeling a bit underprepared, and that imposter syndrome is starting to kick in. I enjoy Swift’s songs and I’m thrilled to be going – but having seen the sort of infatuation and dedication that Swift commands, I’m a pilgrim in an unholy land here.  

“You must be the only person in France right now who has a ticket for Taylor Swift and isn’t bouncing off the walls!” 

True, it is the cultural must-see these days, and Swift has cemented her place as the world’s biggest act. She wields creative, commercial and celebrity power like few before her, and everywhere the Eras Tour goes, the economy is boosted.  

Still, I should have revised more, as apparently there are routines and fan calls to prep. I’ve been told that during the song ‘Delicate’, there’s a fan reply that goes “1,2,3, Let’s Go Bitch!”  

How delightfully vulgar. I really need to look into that.  

Plus, I haven’t exactly dressed the part, as I look like I’m going to a grunge gig. All I planned was plenty of water and the Seven Daggers of Megiddo should Swiftageddon materialise.  

No one in the office gets my The Omen reference.  

I’m so alone.

15:00 

I’ve been told by my fellow gig goers to get to the Groupama Stadium early, as the previous night was pandemonium.  

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One of my colleagues, who sadly did not get a ticket and is a die hard Swiftie, reminds me what’s at stake here. Not the fate of the free world, but close: her crippling FOMO. If anything, I need to drop my grumpy bastard act and get with the programme, if only to restore some karmic balance that somehow got skewed when I managed to secure a spot and she didn’t.  

I leave the office earlier than usual – something approved by my long-suffering editor, I assure you – and bid my colleagues farewell with a not-at-all convincing “See you on the other side – Cruel Summer, Bitches!”  

Seriously, don’t ask. I’m a 38-year-old in the midst of a breakdown. 

15:15 

I text my friends that I’m on my way. 

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The reply is dauntingly immediate: “I’ll send you my location – Look for TTPD & Lover theme” 

I have no earthly idea what that means.  

I can hazard a guess that one of them will be in pink (for the Lover Era) and the other in some sort of billowy white number to fly the flag for the latest album 'The Tortured Poets Department' – an album which I can’t deny I’m not as keen on compared to Swift’s past efforts like ‘1989’ or ‘Folklore’. 

15:30 

I am not the only one who got the memo for an early time of arrival. The metro is already chock-a-block with fans, who came to play.  

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The outfits are amazing, with many directly referencing an era – lots of red dresses, faces bedazzled with diamonds, and enough glitter and sequins to make Liberace swoon. The level of dedication is intense, and my ripped jeans / black t-shirt / sequined Converse look pales in comparison.  

To my relief, some of the male fans there (a minority so far) haven’t made much of an effort, so at least I have the shiny shoes to boast.  

15:35

Metro exchanges
Metro exchangesDavid Mouriquand

There’s a brief exchange on the metro line before the tramway that heads to the stadium that makes my heart melt a bit. A young girl who is on her own is invited to come sit next to a group who are all going to the gig. They immediately ask her where she’s from, take her under their wing, and start exchanging bracelets. 

This is what I’ve heard so much about – the all-important fan-made bracelets that serve not only as a mark of recognition but a way to exchange tokens and buddy up. It’s a genuinely wholesome moment, with faces lighting up when they read what the bracelets say and when wristwear is swapped.  

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My grumpy arsehole energy starts to dissipate.  

16:20

Merch stand
Merch standDavid Mouriquand

Having arrived at the stadium, I quickly get my Eras Tour t-shirt (judge me all you want, they look fancy) before the crowds make merch an impossibility.  

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about going to hundreds of gigs, it’s to hit the merch stand early. Post-concert queuing for tees is always a nightmare, and there’s always the possibility they’ll be sold out of the size you want.  

16:25 

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“Oooh I love this bracelet – can I have the one that says ‘SLUT’?” 

I love this crowd. Truly. Even if Emmeline Pankhurst just audibly threw up in her grave.  

16:30 

Custom bracelets
Custom braceletsDavid Mouriquand

I meet my friends who, sure enough, have done their homework. The outfits are terrific. I got the pink reference spot on, but didn’t foresee the bride veil for The Tortured Poets Department.  

Very quickly, I understand my place. Them: organ grinders. Me: monkey.  

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Once I’ve donned my Taylor tee, glitter and silver eyeshadow is promptly applied to my (perfectly moisturised) skin. I have also been gifted several bracelets that have been personalised to my taste: “TS AND THE SAD DADS”; “CINEPHILE IN B AND W”, “JAMES DEAN DAYDREAM” and one of the worst lyrics from the latest album “TATTOOED GOLDEN RETRIEVER”. I’m very touched and there’s even a bag of spares – one which will come in handy.  

17:00 

Glittering up
Glittering upDavid Mouriquand
Getting ready
Getting readyDavid Mouriquand

Champagne starts to flow and everyone is so delightfully chatty.  

“Where are you from?”  

There are a lot of American voices. Hardly surprising, as it costs less to travel to Europe and see her here compared to some of the costs in the US. Insanity, but kudos for dedication.  

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“Have you seen her before?” 

Most have, and the bracelets and outfits suggest this is an ongoing thing.  

“What songs do you need her to play?” 

The repeated phrase that pops up as a response to this is: “If she plays (insert song), I’ll literally die.” 

A little part of me expires when I hear this operatic overreaction and wanton disregard of the meaning of ‘literally’, but my mood has been completely lifted by a compliment on my makeup, hearing others sing praises to fellow fans’ outfits, and a young scamp named Joseph who comes to our small group with his mum. Joseph is shy and he wanted to trade some bracelets. He just needed his mum to make the proper introductions. He’s wearing a jacket I’d kill for and trades me a “Lyon Eras Tour 03/06” bracelet he made for one of mine. I consider asking his mum whether there’s any chance I can adopt this wunderkind, but sanity kicks in. Regardless, Joseph will go far.  

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Bracelet exchanges
Bracelet exchangesDavid Mouriquand
Queues? Clumps
Queues? ClumpsDavid Mouriquand

17:25 

We make our way to the entrances of the stadium and find our allocated door. The crowd is insane, and queuing etiquette quickly goes out the window, as this is no longer a line, it’s a clump.  

There’s quite a bit of moaning and shouting, but on the whole, considering the shitshow it is, everyone’s in relatively good spirits.  

“I took a preventive Ibuprofen” shares my friend.  

Why in the name of Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince didn’t I think of that? After all, Swift’s Eras Tour setlists last a total of 45 songs. That’s three and a half hours, without counting the opening act Paramore. You get your money’s worth, but this is not one for the weak-kneed.  

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Still, that’s a problem for future me, and the champagne helps. As do bladder control exercises, so I overhear. 

Banner pic
Banner picDavid Mouriquand
Pre-queue pic
Pre-queue picDavid Mouriquand
Bracelet exchanges in the queue
Bracelet exchanges in the queueDavid Mouriquand

17:50 

The doors open and I’ve never heard a cheer quite like this one. It was like a joyful howl from the beyond, and mischief is everyone’s mistress now. Barriers fall and the stampede begins.  

18:10 

Groupama Stadium filling up
Groupama Stadium filling upDavid Mouriquand

All in all, that wasn’t half bad. The rush was energising, the screams are appropriately eardrum shattering, and we’re not too far from the stage on the ground floor.  

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The stadium is a lot smaller than I imagined it would be, so that’s a plus. We’ve also been given official light-up bracelets that apparently have a mind of their own. They’ll light up when they’re good and ready. All I need to do is pull the tag and wait. At first, I thought it was a suicide pill container should things get drastic, or even a tagging device - and I’ve watched enough X Files over the years to be wary of these shady gizmos. However, I’m told the effect will be delightful.  

18:30  

Paramore
ParamoreDavid Mouriquand

Paramore take to the stage and their short but punchy set is a joy.  

To be honest, I’d have paid just to see that – especially for the Talking Heads over of ‘Burning Down The House’ and a wonderful acoustic version of their hit ‘The Only Exception’ - off of their 2009 album ‘Brand New Eyes’.  

Surprisingly, considering it was a favourite from last year, the songs off of ‘This Is Why’ (‘Running Out Of Time’ and ‘This Is Why’) fall flat. Still, frontwoman Hayley Williams has still got it.  

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20:00 

The stage is set
The stage is setDavid Mouriquand
Countdown begins
Countdown beginsDavid Mouriquand

As I ditch the timeline construction in favour of a picture piece with commentary – sorry to break the fourth wall here - a countdown clock begins. 

The roar of excitement sounds like a dinosaur’s yawn. As the clock ticks down, I swear I can hear increasing levels of tachycardia amidst the screaming. I must confess that it’s infectious and my pulse starts to speed up.

This must have been what Beatlemania felt like.  

The show begins
The show beginsDavid Mouriquand

Some geisha-style peacocks take to the stage, with huge purple and orange drapes flowing, in a scene which reminds me of the alien in Nope. It’s stunning to watch, and TayTay suddenly appears out of nowhere on an elevated plinth.  

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If that mighty dinosaur’s yawn was already defeaning, this one feels like the Rapture just commenced.  

Lover Era
Lover EraDavid Mouriquand

The Lover Era is first, with pinks galore and Swift wearing a spangly tank suit with over-the-knee Louboutins. I’m not sure how she pulls off this impractical outfit, but she makes it look easy.  

Lover Era
Lover EraDavid Mouriquand

The Tetris style elevated portions of the stage are fun and the choreography is already proving to be slick, with various dancers joining Taylor on stage for some eye-catching numbers.  

I can’t say that these are my favourite songs, although hearing a crowd singing along to ‘Cruel Summer’ is invigorating. My fears that I wouldn’t be able to hear the actual singing are assuaged, as the sound system is excellent. 

Hearts up
Hearts upDavid Mouriquand

The benefits of being one of the taller ones at this gig: the pics are easy to take. But I’m missing out on throwing up a few hearts.  

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Lover Era
Lover EraDavid Mouriquand

I confess I dislike the song ‘Lover’ which sounds like ear-bleeding mulings every time the chorus ends with “You’re my, my, my, my loveeeeeeerrrrrrr.” Still, it’s the end of Phase One, marked by a shower of sparks and a costume change. We’re now entering the Fearless Era, which is perfectly pleasant, but I can’t say I’m completely won over at this point.  

Taylor Swift
Taylor SwiftDavid Mouriquand
Phones out
Phones outDavid Mouriquand

I know I’m not one to talk, since I’m snapping away from time to time, but it seems that the consummate Swiftie holds their precious phone in front of their face for most of the songs. Most are filming; some are even live streaming. I completely get documenting these events for posterity and social clout, but it’s nuts how many of these fans aren’t actually looking at the gig at all, and are experiencing it through a screen.

“OK Boomer” me all you want, but it’s a shame that they paid the price of an admission for the opportunity to remove themselves from the live event.  

Still, my height once again helps ignore this for the most part. I’ll just never quite understand why you’d miss out on being present in the moment for bragging rights on socials.  

Elevated stages - everywhere
Elevated stages - everywhereDavid Mouriquand

Now comes the RED Era, and yet another costume change occurs, this time with a tee I’d wear: “Who’s Taylor Swift Anyway? Ew.”  

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A happy Swiftie
A happy SwiftieDavid Mouriquand

She offers her hat to a young fan, and looking at the big screen, it’s touching to see how visibly moved she is.  

As the songs progress, I’m aware that I’m completely into it now.  

While the Lover and Fearless Eras left me a little cold, there’s no arguing with the back-to-back bangers of ‘22’, ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ and ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’. There’s a liveliness to these tracks that has empowered my inner 15-year-old girl, and I’m there for it.

And I am post-chorusing with my warbled “Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh Yeah!”s like the best of them. There’s no going back. This could be the moment I surrender and drink Taylor’s Kool Aid by the gulp.  

Speaking to the fans
Speaking to the fansDavid Mouriquand

Swift addresses the crowd and tells Lyon that an attendance record has been broken.  

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"This is overall my very first trip to Lyon and look at what you've done," the singer says to her 61,000 fans packed inside the stadium. Apparently, the night before, Swift announced the crowd had broken the venue's all-time attendance record for a female artist. Similar to in other cities where succeeding nights have broken attendance records from the night before, she exclaims: "You broke that record."

Excellent news. We proceed.

RED Era
RED EraDavid Mouriquand

Taylor asks if we’ve got a spare 10 minutes, which is met with screams of delight. My neighbour kindly informs me that it’s time for ‘All Too Well’.  

“She always asks this question to the audience,” I’m told.  

This seems to be a recurring niggle for me. Or ‘ick’, to use the parlance of our times. Every interaction with the audience sounds familiar, having seen the Era Tour movie, and there’s very little room for improvisation in this show.  

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Fair enough. This is a massive and expensive spectacle tracing a Marvel-style universe in which she gives us her Best Of So Far. There are references and lore that escape me, but it’s plain to see that this is a dazzlingly slick parade to witness; it’s hard to fault Swift for trading a sense of spontaneity, and I’m loathed to say it, genuineness, for precision. It all needs to be precise and minutely choreographed; but the well-oiled machine doesn’t mean that every affected turn, wink, laugh, look to the camera and phrase uttered doesn’t feel over-rehearsed and practiced to within an inch of its life. While I personally love a more authentic gig with room for improv or off-the-cuff moments, there’s still no arguing with the results – this show goes to show why Swift transcends even the highest echelons of pop fame. 

Reputation Era
Reputation EraDavid Mouriquand

The Speak Now Era is on life support with only one song: ‘Enchanted’. But no matter, this mild lull segues into another RED Era boost for me: Reputation.  

Snakes, scaffolding, smoke machines, one-legged black catsuits... This could very well be favourite phase.  

Reputation Era
Reputation EraDavid Mouriquand
Reputation Era
Reputation EraDavid Mouriquand
Reputation Era
Reputation EraDavid Mouriquand

The ‘Ready For It...’, ‘Delicate’, ‘Don’t Blame Me’ and ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ sequence is excellent, and the elaborate sets during this era veers close to masterful. If not magical.  

Smoke!
Smoke!David Mouriquand

We move on to Cottagecore, with the Folklore / Evermore Era. The scaffolding and the darker vibes of Reputation are replaced with a bucolic chalet on stage, with another rapid costume change that genuinely makes me wonder how she does it and how many helpers are backstage ensuring these dresses and leotards are on and off in a flash.  

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Folklore - Evermore Era
Folklore - Evermore EraDavid Mouriquand
In the cabin
In the cabinDavid Mouriquand

For all my persisting feelings that the staged nature of the performance lacks sincerity, I’m heartened by the repeated instances when Swift isn’t shy about pausing songs to ask the guards to help her fans. She did it during ‘All Too Well’ and does it again now, briefly stopping and saying (in perfect French): “S’il vous plaît, aidez-les.” 

Even more pleasing is how the crowd, in unison, throws up their hands to point in the direction of the incident, highlighting once more the contagious spirit of community these fans project. 

Folklore - Evermore Era
Folklore - Evermore EraDavid Mouriquand
Folklore - Evermore Era
Folklore - Evermore EraDavid Mouriquand

I’m a fan of both of these albums, but aside from a personal favourite of mine - a stunning and moving rendition of ‘Cardigan’ - a lot of these fall a little flat for me. I think I’m still experiencing tonal whiplash from the Reputation / Folklore transition. And the in-between Eras changeover sketches tend to be more annoying than anything else. Necessary, but often veering on cringy, especially when one dancer does a skit with boxes opening and various songs emanating from the props.  

If any of these fervent fans could read my internal thoughts right now, I’d have to buy tickets to Argentina and schedule a face transplant, post haste. Swift has got everyone in the palm of her hand.  

Folklore - Evermore Era
Folklore - Evermore EraDavid Mouriquand

The polished show continues to be awe-inspiring in its smoothness. A moment after the word-for-word speech I've heard before online preceding the song ‘Champagne Problems’, the crowd explodes into prolonged applause and cheering, which is so loud I’m convinced this could be registered as an earthquake on the Richter scale.  

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Procession
ProcessionDavid Mouriquand

For “Willow”, Swift emerges from a projected backdrop of spooky trees, wearing a velvety black hooded cape. Her dancers are also clad in dark cloaks, bearing mystically glowing orange orbs. The procession is impressive and surprising, making it dawn on me quite how many styles and vibes she’s already given the crowd at the halfway point of the gig. Lover, survivor, vamp, storyteller-by-the-fire... It’s dizzying how she manages to do this over and over again and make it work somehow.  

1989 Era
1989 EraDavid Mouriquand
1989 Era
1989 EraDavid Mouriquand
1989 Era
1989 EraDavid Mouriquand

It seems to be one on / one off for me with the eras. I liked the last one, but things liven up considerably for 1989.  

‘Style’, ‘Blank Space’, ‘Shake It Off’, ‘Wildest Dreams’ and ‘Bad Blood’ are excellent, and the swinging of a neon golf club at one point temporarily makes me forget golf is a sport for sociopaths.  

Neon golf
Neon golfDavid Mouriquand

If my even-numbered-Eras-are-best theory holds, this next one might be a bummer.  

TTPD Era
TTPD EraDavid Mouriquand

It’s the new era: The Tortured Poets Department, and compared to what preceded it, my theory holds. It’s perfectly fine, but tracks like ‘Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?’ and ‘I Can Do It With A Broken Heart’ still don’t win me over.  

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TTPD Era
TTPD EraDavid Mouriquand

A lot of the staging for this Era harks back to old school Hollywood, so there’s that as consolation. Plus, Swift seems to be spending some time on top of a gliding silver monolith, which looks like it would be a blast.  

On a moving shiny platform
On a moving shiny platformDavid Mouriquand
Caligari vibes
Caligari vibesDavid Mouriquand

There’s a distorted Robert Weine / Caligari -style backdrop to a set piece with a giant white bed frame, which I’m having a great time with, followed by some sort of Bat signal to the heavens. I’m not sure what it all means, but it sure looks nice. And if aliens do attempt to make first contact, not a soul at this gig would give a tinker’s fig.  

The surprise songs
The surprise songsDavid Mouriquand

The penultimate section, I’m told. These are the surprise songs, and there’s still so much energy left in this crowd, as a giddy buzz anticipates what two songs she’ll play – the first on the guitar, the second on the piano.  

We get a medley of ‘Glitch’ and ‘Everything Has Changed’, followed by ‘Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus’, both of which she tells the crowd are live debuts.

One audience member makes a guttural noise of appreciation akin to a distressed Linda Blair in The Exorcist. It’s the first time I’m intimidated by an overzealous Swiftie. I wish I brought holy water.  

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The surprise songs
The surprise songs David Mouriquand
Boulders? Clouds?
Boulders? Clouds? David Mouriquand
Midnights Era
Midnights EraDavid Mouriquand

It’s the final stretch, reserved for the Midnights Era. 

Swift’s dancers arrive with purple-lit boulders. Or are they clouds? Again, strong Nope vibes here, and I can’t tell whether this is actually happening or if delirium is in full swing because I can’t feel anything below my waist.  

Midnights Era
Midnights EraDavid Mouriquand

As much as ‘Lavender Haze’ and ‘Anti-Hero’ hit their marks, the rest of the set fizzles out for me, confirming that the ‘Midnights’ album may be one of her weakest. ‘Bejeweled’ and ‘Mastermind’ come and go without making much of an impression, but the burlesque themed costumes and chair choreography works, proving once again that you can’t fight against the stagecraft.  

Midnights Era
Midnights EraDavid Mouriquand
Midnights Era
Midnights EraDavid Mouriquand

After three and a half hours, it’s over, with some fireworks to cap it all off.  

The last set was easily three songs too long, and a few tracks could have been sacrificed for another Era. Or more surprise songs, as they were lovely. Still, as much as I seem to bellyache, there’s was something uniquely enlivening about this exuberant and delightful show. Everyone seems thrilled, and considering some of the reactions I’ve seen tonight, when an artist can provoke that level of passion, excitement and unbridled cheer, you’re dealing with a performer who not only succeeds in her craft, but also has it all.  

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I mentioned The Beatles earlier on, but maybe her dominance right now can be compared to Michael Jackson in the 80s. And the 90s, come to think of it. She may not be up there with the Fab Four in my eyes, and I doubt they’ll be surpassed, but she’s coming close as a cultural juggernaut who cannot be avoided. And shouldn’t be – even if the crowds might make your return home last more than two hours. 

Did I just become a Swiftie? Perhaps a tortured one. But I gather that’s on brand considering the latest album.

Who’s afraid of little old Taylor gigs? Not me anymore.

The European leg of the Eras Tour continues in UK (07-23/06), Ireland (28-30/06), Amsterdam (04-06/07), Switzerland (09-10/07), Italy (13-14/07), Germany (17-28/07), Poland (01-03/08), Austria (08-10/08), UK (15-20/08). 

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