REVIEW: 'Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour' film is more of a concert than concert film – LehighValleyNews.com

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Turns out Taylor Swift’s new movie, “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” is less of a concert film than you might think — though that doesn’t make it any less successful.
And that’s despite the fact that the entire movie — all 2 hours and 48 minutes of it (more about that later) — is footage of a performance of Swift’s Eras Tour concert filmed at the tour’s last U.S. dates at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles in early August.
(Sorry for those who saw the live concert at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, you’re not in the film, and Swift makes no mention of her Pennsylvania roots.)
Blessedly, there are no backstage scenes, no interviews, no candid “road” shots — any of the tropes that often hamper concert films. Every shot of “The Eras Tour” is Swift on stage or quick crowd shots.
But it’s fair to say the film gives the viewer a far better vantage point than any actual concert-goer got: It opens with an aerial shot of the stadium that shows just how many people were there — and how far away from the stage many of them were.
Most of the film has the viewer on stage with Swift unless it’s to show the fabulous sets or the massive stage production.
But what makes “The Eras Tour” less of a concert film is that Swift’s shows are less concerts and more theatrical productions, making much of the film more of a visual spectacle.

Several of the songs performed in the film’s first “era” — 2019’s album “Lover” — such as “The Man” actually are musical plays, overly broad with costumes, scenery and large casts.
But that helps let the film be what her concerts really are: a communal experience for her “Swifty” fans. Participation was a key part of the night for the audience at Frank Banko Alehouse Cinema at ArtsQuest Center.
By the night’s fourth song, the crowd — about 75 people, nearly all young girls and mom types (only five males in the entire audience) — was waving its arms as Swift did.
And when, at the start of the second “era,” 2008’s “Fearless,” when Swift sang the title song, “Ask you to dance right there,” several rows of fans did.
The energy for that “era” was far higher, with audience members singing loudly along, and dancing (some jumping), especially on “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story” — still her best material.
Overall, the film offers nine eras, one for each of her albums except her debut, plus a two-song “surprise set.”

The “era” for 2012’s “Red” brought the loudest singing — jumping around and dancing, too — for “22,” which was far better because of its looser, more fun performance; for “I Knew You Were Trouble,” with her alone on guitar; and especially for “We Are Never Getting Back Together.”
The era for 2014’s “1989” got the same reaction, with dancing and singing for the hits “Blank Space” (far more fun), “Shake It Off” and “Bad Blood.”
The two-song “surprise set” offers the only song from Swift’s 2006 self-titled debut, the hit “Our Song” — another loud sing-and-dance along — and “You’re On You Own, Kid,” from her newest album, last year’s “Midnights.”
The audience reacted far less enthusiastically to the “eras” for more recent albums — 2020’s “Folklore” and “Evermore,” which together accounted for 10 of the show’s 40 (!) songs.
In fairness, the latter “era” came 90 minutes into what is a very long movie, when the audience might have needed a rest.
Ironically, the songs from “Folklore” were presented in a far more traditional concert setting: The more mature “The Last Great American Dynasty” was nicely played, and Swift again alone on guitar for “Betty.”
The “era” of “Evermore” offered “Willow,” a particularly good song that suggested Swift could pull off a really good traditional just-sing-the-songs concert, as did “Champagne Problems,” with just her at the piano.
Even the “eras” for 2017’s “Reputation” drew less enthusiastic singing along to “Ready For It” and more on “Look What You Made Me Do.” Swift played just one song from 2010’s “Speak Now” — “Enchanted.”

But the response to those “eras” raised a valid question: As Swift, about to turn 34, becomes more mature in her music, is she in danger of leaving her audience of young girls behind?
One has to ask how successfully can an older Swift, with more mature music, continue to attract that young audience — and would doing so compromise maturing her music?
The film’s final “era,” for “Midnights,” showed that may not be a question Swift has to answer yet.
The seven-song set was enthusiastically received — especially the recent hit “Anti-Hero”; “Bejeweled,” which still got some sing-along; and the closing “Karma,” on which a revived audience danced and loudly sang along.
The film ended as a concert would, with Swift introducing her dancers, backup singers and band.
And the audience even applauded loudly for them.
Some notes: ArtsQuest Senior Programming Director Patrick Brogan said “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” had a record-setting ticket pre-sale.
While no shows have sold out yet (there are showings scheduled through Nov. 5), it already has good sales deep into the run, Brogan said.
Friday’s showing — on Oct. 13 (fans know 13 is Swift’s favorite number) originally was to be the opening show, but Swift ordered a last-minute early showing on Thursday.
Friday’s enthusiasm also spilled over to the concession stand, which even offered adult-beverage drink specials such as a “Reputation” vodka drink and a “Midnights” margarita.
A long line delayed the movie’s start by 20 minutes.

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