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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

A Taylor Swift homecoming: Traveling through ‘The Eras’ in Nashville

During the surprise song portion of the concert, Swift announced that “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” will be rereleased on July 7.
Sara West
Taylor Swift looks out into the crowd while smiling, as photographed on May 5, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Sara West)

It’s not every day you get to travel through all “The Eras” of Taylor Swift with the biggest crowd Nissan Stadium has ever seen. And it’s not every day that you get to hear Taylor Swift announce an album — “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” — live. Yet on May 5, we and 70,000 other Swifties got to do just that. 

Swift, who moved to Nashville when she was in eighth grade, confessed to the crowd that she considers the Nashville concert a “hometown show.”

“My dream came true because of the people in this town, because of the love and nurturing and support I have from this town,” Swift said.

But before Swift’s much-anticipated appearance, fan-favorite Gracie Abrams opened with “Where do we go now?” while donning a classic half-buttoned white shirt with black pants and boots. 

Abrams’ angelic, effortlessly beautiful presence only heightened as she transitioned into “21.” Between songs, she acknowledged the crowd and the opportunity to open for her idols Phoebe Bridgers and Taylor Swift.

“Tonight is really special for me because the first song I learned on guitar was a Taylor song, and the first song I posted on the internet was a Phoebe song,” Abrams said. “This is so beyond my wildest dreams.”

Moments after Abrams skipped off the stage, heavy metal and smoke filled the stage as the words “Phoebe Bridgers” appeared on the screen and rain poured down on the stadium. Bridgers ran out onto the stage in her signature skeleton regalia and sang the opening lines of “Motion Sickness.” This performance marked Bridgers’ debut on the “The Eras Tour” and she brought it all — from the sped-up indie-rock “Kyoto,” which she dedicated to dads, to the stripped-down emotional “Scott Street,” playing as the sun set.

Hearing Bridgers’ introspective songs in such a large stadium was surreal, and the experience became even more thrilling when Bridgers announced that she was bringing “her boys” out, and Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus ran out onto the stage. The three make up the band boygenius, and the crowd screamed as they played “Not Strong Enough” from their new album “the record.” After chanting the lyrics “Always an angel, never a god,” “the boys” stayed on to harmonize during “Graceland Too” (IYKYK) and the sweeping “I Know the End.” The song ends with a minute-long scream about the world ending, during which the trio slid and laid in the center of the stage, which felt like a cute family living room moment, in front of 70,000 people.

After the opening sets, the crowd waited in palpable anticipation for the star of the night and favorite child of Nashville to make her way onto the stage. After a clock countdown, rooms of a house the “Eras house” — floated across the screen and Swift emerged from billowing sunset-painted props to sing the words “It’s been a long time coming” to the crowd’s screams. This set the tour off on its first era — “Lover,” as Swift jumped into the intoxicating “Cruel Summer.” Before launching into her anthem about misogyny, she thanked the large crowd.

“You’re making me feel so powerful, making me feel like tonight is the highest attended event to ever take this stadium because 70,000 people decided to hang out with us this evening,” Swift said. “I guess what I’m trying to say is you’re making me feel like the man.” 

The fun was just beginning as Swift invited us to step back into high school with her (shoutout to Hendersonville High School) for the “Fearless” era. In her best dress, she danced in the storm to iconic hits like “Fearless” and “Love Story” which had the entire crowd feeling the nostalgia of her early albums. 

Next came the “evermore” era, bringing us all into a fantasy world in the woods. As Swift sang “marjorie,” which is about her grandmother who shared her passion for music, crowd members held up photos of Marjorie, and Swift held back tears as she took out her earpiece and heard the full sound of the crowd cheering. This sweet feeling built as Swift played piano and sang “champagne problems,” which she expressed as being one of those songs she couldn’t wait to play live. 

“When I was writing during the pandemic, I wanted to connect with you all in any way I could, and when writing this, I really wished that we could be in a room together for me to perform it for you,” Swift said.

When she finished, the crowd gave a long standing ovation, and Swift cried, resting her head on the piano and looking around in awe.  

The mood shifted as a snake slid across the screen, and Swift strutted out in boots and a black and red jumpsuit to her iconic electropop “…Ready for It?” All 70,000 of us surely weren’t prepared for the guitar-heavy, smoke-filled “Reputation” era, during which Swift rose on the moving stage and belted “Don’t Blame Me,” giving the whole audience chills.

In a brief ode to “Speak Now,” Swift sang “Enchanted” in a jewel-covered princess dress, before launching into her “Red” era — with her classic fedora, black sparkly shorts and a white t-shirt reading “Who’s Taylor Swift anyway? Ew.”

The crowd turned into 70,000 backup singers for Swift as we shouted along to “22,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “I Knew You Were Trouble.” 

Speaking on the process of growing up, Swift then surprised the crowd by inviting Bridgers back onto the stage for a duet of “Nothing New” — the first time the power duo had sung together. Swift said that, thanks to the crowd, she has never felt like she is losing her spark. The duet was the cherry on top we didn’t know we needed but certainly would not have been complete without.

Before we could emotionally recover from the Swift x Bridgers crossover, Swift launched into “All Too Well” — and yes, the 10-minute version. 

A wave of calm rushed through the stadium as she entered her “folklore” era, which came to life during the pandemic as she imagined herself, clad in Victorian dress, living in a cabin in the woods and writing songs with ink and parchment. She said she intentionally shifted the focus of the album away from herself and toward fictional characters through which she infused her own experiences.

After rejuvenating the crowd with “betty,” “the last great american dynasty,” “august,” “cardigan” and other hits, Swift ushered in her “1989” era. Nostalgia hit again with Swift’s powerful renditions of “Blank Space,” “Shake It Off,” “Wildest Dreams” and “Bad Blood.” 

As the concert came to a close, Swift introduced two surprise songs, which have been different for every venue thus far. First came “Sparks Fly,” after which the crowd pulsed with electricity as Swift built up her surprise announcement — that “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” is being released on July 7. As soon as the album appeared on the screen, the crowd erupted into screams that echoed throughout the city. 

The second surprise song came from her debut album: “Teardrops on My Guitar.”

As the nearly five-hour-long concert came to a close, Swift sang fan favorites from her most recent era, “Midnights.” Purple flashed across the stage and stadium as she sang “Lavender Haze” with an enlarged video of herself frolicking in a patch of flowers on the screen behind her. “Anti-Hero,” “Midnight Rain,” “Vigilante Shit” and “Bejeweled” followed, the last one featuring animated diamonds, emeralds and other gems sparkling across the screen. 

Literal bangs punctuated the spectacular performance as fireworks lit up the night sky, and with “Mastermind” and “Karma,” Swift brought us to her present era — reminding us of the creative and authentic genius that is Taylor Swift.

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About the Contributors
Brina Ratangee
Brina Ratangee, Editorial Director
Brina Ratangee ('24) is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in medicine, health & society and neuroscience. She previously served as News Editor. When not writing for The Hustler, she enjoys trivia nights, solving NYT crosswords and biking around Nashville. You can reach her at [email protected].
Claire Gatlin
Claire Gatlin, Former Life Editor
Claire Gatlin ('24) is a student in Peabody College studying human and organizational development and political science. In her free time, she enjoys going to concerts, reading and rollerblading. You can reach her at [email protected].
Sara West
Sara West, Deputy Photography Editor
Sara West ('25) is majoring in psychology in the College of Arts and Science and human and organizational development in Peabody College. Sara loves going to concerts, thrifting and exploring new places. She was previously Deputy Photography Director and hopes to enter the music industry after graduating.  She can be reached at [email protected].
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