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When my dear friend invited me to Taylor Swift’s Stockholm concert, I hesitated for a myriad of reasons. My tastes—anchored in house music and the anthems of my youth—wouldn’t jibe with Taylor’s tunes. I don’t love going to concerts anymore; the lines, the wait, the crowds. Besides, I’ve already seen many of the big artists—Madonna, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Avicii, Drake, Lenny Kravitz, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Depeche Mode—so I’m good. I also felt I had outgrown this type of concert experience. My daughter had been a huge Miley Cyrus fan but bypassed the Taylor phase. Above all, I’d be returning to Stockholm from New York on the day of the show. After a week away, my jetlag would kick in; how would I stay awake?

Yet my friend’s persuasive powers are unmatched. She posed three questions that struck a chord: “Jenn, aren’t you curious? Don’t you want to know why she’s such a cultural phenomenon? Don’t you want to be a part of the conversation?” Her intellectual argument was compelling. Plus, I sort of suffer from FOMO, so I said yes. She set up a WhatsApp Chat with three other girlfriends and proceeded to plan. The outfits. The playlist. The nails. I was editing my manuscript, so my engagement on this chain was sporadic, but I ordered friendship bracelets once I learned this was a trendy symbol among Swifties. 

I realized something was up when I boarded the Stockholm flight at Newark Airport last Thursday. It was booked solid—and not with the usual reserved Swedish passengers I normally see. Instead, it was swarming with Swifties. Mothers and daughters. Besties. Ex-pat Swedes. All united in their devotion to Taylor. The Stockholm concert tickets, slightly more accessible and affordable, had lured them into a seven-hour transatlantic pilgrimage. The flight was buzzing with a different vibe—vibrant, youthful, electric anticipation. When we landed, one of Taylor’s songs filled the cabin, setting the mood. Taylormania had arrived.

I went home, unpacked, and refueled with caffeine. I had googled “Eras Tour” fashion inspo, and there were so many styles—sparkles, Western, Red, folkloric. I shopped my closet and found a silver fringe skirt (last worn on New Year’s Eve ages ago) that seemed Taylor-made (excuse the pun) for the night. At the appointed time, the girls and I met up, admiring each other’s outfits and piling on the friendship bracelets, our curiosity and excitement building.

At Friends Arena, my generous friend had splurged for the Premium package, granting us a smooth passage through the bulging crowd. We enjoyed good food and drinks while waiting for the main event. Sipping Palomas, we surveyed the scene, marveling at its eclectic composition—young, old, girls, boys, women, and men. The creative outfits were a kaleidoscopic feast for the eyes. Sequins and feathers put people in a festive mood, and the energy was infectious.

When one of the ushers announced Taylor would soon be taking the stage, my middle-aged self was relieved there wouldn’t be a delay. We found our seats and caught the last song of the opening act, Paramore, a rock band with a cool alternative sound. Soon after, a line of dancers sashayed onto the stage, each carrying a swath of billowing, pastel-hued fabric in the air. They stopped near the end of the runway stage, and Taylor emerged from below on a raised platform like Venus, bedazzled in a sequined bodysuit and boots, mic in hand. It was a visually captivating moment. The fervor crescendoed when she stopped singing and addressed the crowd. It was her debut performance in Stockholm, and she told the sold-out audience how thrilled she was to be here at last. I felt a rush of Swedish pride. The weather was beautiful, and Stockholm was shining on this pre-summer night, the glowing points of light in the arena reflecting the enthusiasm of her fans.

For the next three hours, Taylor Swift serenaded us through her musical ERAS. Surprisingly, I knew more songs than I expected, a testament to how her music has embedded itself into our consciousness. I noted the diversity of Taylor’s backup singers and dancers, along with the comfortable dynamic they exhibited throughout. Everyone looked like they were having fun! As a fashion devotee, I was mesmerized by her costumes, a dazzling display of materials and embellishments that complemented the songs, shimmering and sweeping across the stage. The production was a spectacle of light and sound, each choreographed move seamlessly executed. The wristband with the pulsating light everyone received upon entry glowed and changed colors, a high-tech evolution from the traditional lighters that once flickered at concerts back in the day.

Taylor was the consummate professional, but it didn’t detract from the artistry. Strutting and singing through a 40+ set list, she made it all look effortless. I swayed and sang along when I could. She established a warm rapport with the audience, sprinkling in a few Swedish phrases and conveying her appreciation for the crowd’s support. We were all smitten.

My girlfriends and I left Friends Arena with smiles on our faces, adrift in a sea of Swifties, processing what we had just witnessed and wondering what Taylor would do after the show. Would she go straight to bed? Where was she staying? The weather was so nice, would she go sightseeing? Imagine if we ran into her?!

My admiration and respect for artists is boundless, and Taylor Swift’s passion for her craft is palpable. Her reflections on composing music through the pandemic resonated with me, as I, too, felt the urge to create amidst the chaos. Watching her perform, I pondered the talent, discipline, focus, and dedication required to achieve such heights of success—the capacity to tune out the noise and negativity and simply engage in the act of creation. It is nothing short of impressive—and inspiring.

This adventure reaffirmed my belief in the artist’s journey: to embrace new experiences with an open mind and an open heart. Though initially reluctant, this concert is now etched in my memory. I’m grateful that my friend was so convincing—and my wristband is still flashing its twinkling, radiant light.

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1 Comment

May 19

Good for you in being open-minded and trying something new!

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