Brilliant Taylor Swift sees red at B.C. Place

At B.C. Place on Saturday, June 29

If this is any measure, then the downtrodden looking guy in the teddy bear outfit is a good indication that Taylor Swift has changed relationship dynamics for the better.

Getting your boyfriend to go out in public dressed like a character from the mammothly cutesy-poo “We Are Never Getting Back Together” video? I’d say the girls are coming out on top based on that small but riveting spectacle, at least in this section of the world, where 42,000 people showed up at B.C. Place to hear the 23-year-old Grammy winner say that if you break her heart, then she’ll go and record a triple platinum album about it, asshole.

With that information on the table—“What else about me? Well, I write songs about my feelings,” she added during a long opening spiel, as if we were all interviewing her at Starbucks—the supremely poised Ms. Swift kicked up her heels and burst into “Red”, flanked by dancers waving huge crimson flags straight out of Mao’s secret Hollywood fever dream.

This was only three songs into a two-hour production that only got more impressive as it went along, even with the arguably unwelcome incursion of the Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” into “Stay Stay Stay” at one point (gah, what a horrible piece of music).

That aside, there were, among other things, people bungeeing up and down from the rafters whacking enormous illuminated drums for an extended part of “Holy Ground”, and a wickedly noir-ish intro for “The Lucky One”, with Swift seemingly stepping out of a movie looking like Veronica Lake in a murder gown created by Edith Head. That, folks, is entertainment.

Designed to resemble a creepy Venetian masked ball, “I Knew You Were Trouble” was another highlight, with nightmarish wardrobe matching a version of the hit song reworked to emphasize the dubstep bits. About 90 minutes and 120 costume changes in, this was a welcome dose of weird evil in a show that was otherwise long on me-power bromides and carefully composed video close-ups of Swift looking either perkily self-possessed or TV movie emotional. On the other hand, the average age of her audience is about 15, so fair enough.

At other times, you also had to credit Swift’s crew for their occasional bursts of subtlety, as when the camera caught the singer against a sunset image of the Eiffel Tower while she sat on a scissor lift about four kilometers away at the other end of BC Place, strumming an acoustic guitar through “Begin Again”.

And the finale? Daubed in enough glitter to bury Liberace’s mansion, Swift and her dancers (some of them on stilts) turned “We Are Never Getting Back Together” into a 19th century circus scene that was as much Fellini as Disney. That was just full on brilliant.

This was the last Canadian stop for Swift’s Red Tour, which marches on for another 35 U.S. and Australian stadium dates. Putting aside the corporate sponsorship and the nauseating ads we had to endure between the openers (including Brit thumper Ed Sheeran with just a guitar, a loop pedal, and hipster Samwise Gamgee hair), this speaks to another changing dynamic. There was a time when it took bozo dude-rockers like U2 to pull off something this huge. Now the world’s big tent goes to a wispy chick whose fortunes skyrocketed with a middle finger raised to her ex.

Memo to dude in the teddy bear outfit: well played, son.

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