Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour concert film is not for you if…
… you don’t know what the “22 hat” means.
… you don’t know the significance of the song “marjorie.”
… you don’t know when to shout “1… 2… 3… Let’s go, bitch!” in “Delicate.”
… you are borderline for significant hearing loss.
A few years ago, thanks to a song ownership disagreement with her previous management company, the 12-time Grammy-winning Taylor Swift began re-recording most of her catalog, branding them “Taylor’s Versions.” It was a brilliant, unprecedented move by an extraordinarily savvy businesswoman. Not only did each ostensibly carbon-copy album (save some new, largely never-before-heard songs) make a great deal of money, but they also served to endear and reintroduce Swift to a new legion of fans. Young girls perhaps not quite ready for the more mature sounds of her recent albums could consume decades-old albums with the patina of a new release.
And consume them they did. In mass quantities.
Then, a post-COVID Swift unveiled her tour plans after the pandemic scrapped a planned “Lover” tour. Instead of focusing on recent releases, she revealed an epic concert strategy, the scale of which would encompass all decades (or “eras”) of her career. It would be a show that at times ran nearly 3.5 hours long. It would break attendance records. It would cause Congress to investigate Ticketmaster after a failed and heavily publicized tour ticket launch.
It would be Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour.
And now Swift brings the experience directly to theaters without studio assistance. It’s going to make a shitload of money.
And it should. Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour is an excellent concert film. As someone who attended her Nashville show, I can attest that the film nearly completely captures the pulse, the energy, the sounds, the lights, and the spectacle of the live show. For those unable to attend in person (or for those seated in nosebleeds), the film is remarkably adept at bringing a stadium show right into your theater.
That’s either a blessing or a nightmare for you as a moviegoer.
My daughter and her friends consumed the film as if in a stadium surrounded by people screaming and singing along. Accustomed to the sanctity of a movie theater, my initial instincts were to keep them a bit more reserved. But I quickly realized that the sound system in the IMAX theater I attended was loud for a reason. I gave into the experience and sang along with those around me at the top of my lungs. The Eras Tour invites you to break the unwritten contract of a movie theater. It demands audience participation. It begs you to engage with the music, to let it flow through you as you would in a live concert event. You should sing the songs you know. You should chair dance as if you were a royal completely devoid of rhythm and grace. You should raise your hands and make Swift’s famous heart hands symbol. You should talk back to the screen. You should scream and laugh.
It’s the only way to honestly experience the film.
Cinematically, it’s a fairly straightforward presentation. It doesn’t give you any insight into the tour’s construction. It doesn’t attempt to provide any sense of Swift’s emotions backstage as she encountered what had to be extremely overwhelming moments after moments. What it serves is the audience-ready face of Taylor Swift, the performer. Sometimes, it feels genuine. Sometimes not. But the closeness of the incredible and often extraordinarily beautiful cinematography gives you a front-row seat to the performer that is Taylor Swift. In person, the concert’s production design and Swift’s navigation through it felt more cinematic than expected. That fact feels underscored in the actual film. The colors, the designs, and the special effects embedded within the massive stage are all front and center as we’re given a God’s-eye view of the proceedings. The “era” that popped most for me during the film was the “Reputation” section. There, the snake motif and savvy selection of songs (“Ready For It,” “Delicate,” “Don’t Blame Me,” and “Look What You Made Me Do”) really seemed brilliantly aligned and represented for the film in a way you really can’t appreciate in person.
Should you see the film? If you don’t know the difference between “Shake It Off” and “Love Story,” then the film and the audience engagement would be a miserable for you. For long-time fans like me and my daughter, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour emerged as a pretty wonderful bonding moment. It brought joy to a group of 15-year-old girls who screamed each and every lyric of the massive 30+ song set. It brought a pretty massive smile to this aging face.
Anything that brings that much joy should absolutely be celebrated.