When Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour hit theaters this past October, it became the highest-grossing concert film of all time with the quickness, and had hardcore Swifties and just the generally curious literally dancing in the aisles for hours. Now available to rent on numerous VOD platforms like Prime Video and Apple TV and timed to celebrate her 34th birthday – “My name is Taylor and I was born in 1989!” – Eras also sweetens the pot with additional live performances of “Wildest Dreams,” “The Archer,” and “Long Live.” And while some folks are gripey about the on-demand cover charge, it isn’t really possible to diminish the glow of this grandly imagined, career-spanning concert film, which was filmed last August during a three-night sold-out stand at LA’s SoFi Stadium. Swift, her songs, and her work of nearly 20 years across distinct career eras polishes up real, real nice.
TAYLOR SWIFT – THE ERAS TOUR: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Ten “eras,” over 40 songs sung, and just about three hours of runtime when it’s all said and done, which includes three additional songs not included in the theatrical version: in both sound and vision, The Eras Tour is a statement-making film and performance from Taylor Swift. “Oh, hi!” she greets the amassed thousands from atop an attitude box that either rises or descends from the stage, the bulk of which thrusts like a bolt through the stadium’s center. “Oh LA, you’re making me feel excellent right now…so powerful,” and a mixture of dynamic close-ups and swirling aerials capture the constant action on stage, from Lover highlights like “The Man” and “You Need to Calm Down,” through Fearless with its rousing nods to early hits “Love Story” and “You Belong to Me” (“Are you ready to go back to high school with me?”), and onward through the eras that mark Swift’s hugely successful career.
As energetic of a centerpiece as Swift is – but for a few piano bench moments, she’s always standing, running, strutting, sashaying, and generally holding the venue in rapt attention – the evolving stage setups for Eras are outsized and eye-catching. For the forest-themed Evermore, Swift dons a cloak while her dancers hold fae lights aloft amid what looks to be live pine trees. For Reputation, effects create the illusion of an enormous snake coiling across the stage thrust. And for 1989, the singer and her dancers beat the hell out of an animated car with glow–in-the-dark golf clubs. There’s also at least one other time when she isn’t in constant motion, as when the cabin from Folklore emerges on stage and Swift sings “The 1” while lying on its moss-covered roof. “I’m not a lonely millennial woman covered in cat hair,” she tells her audience, explaining the motivations behind the bucolic, COVID-recorded record from 2020. “I’m like a woodsy Victorian lady who is wandering through the forest.”
Whether she’s drunk on pain, drunk on jealousy, or making no promises to the guy who makes her drink, Taylor Swift moves steadily through her career eras with verve, resolve, and a continuing ability to make even her most well-known, most-streamed jams feel alive in new ways. “22” becomes a boisterous gathering on stage, with she and her dancers emulating the feeling of rolling deep with one’s crew. “Look What You Made Me Do” is sultry in scarlet tendrils and gauzy black. And ultimately, towards the end of the set, “Anti-Hero” and “Karma” zing with the confessional self-awareness that she’s built into her enduring brand of songwriting and performance.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of? For BTS: Yet to Come, the seven-member Korean boy band realized their own version of a career highlight list, complete with themed set pieces and staging. And if you need more Taylor content after three hours of Eras, Disney+ features the intimate Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, while Netflix has Swifties up in arms about its pending removal of The Reputation Stadium Tour.
Performance Worth Watching: At nearly twenty strong, Swift’s crew of dancers are a constant multi-format presence in Eras, configuring themselves in large and small groups, providing theatrical cues that link and lend personality to the epochal proceedings, and swirling around the star as she explores the entire breadth of the stage. Riding bicycles lit with neon tubes on an odd-shaped platform, in the dark, and in front of 70,000 people? It doesn’t look easy!
Memorable Dialogue: Any concert with room to stretch out deserves an acoustic set. Swift slots hers right before the big finish, performing “Our Song” on a gorgeous guitar with “Taylor” inlaid into its neck and “You’re on Your Own, Kid” on a flower-adorned upright piano. “When I dreamed up the idea of the Eras Tour,” Swift tells the audience, “I thought it would be really fun to sort of go back through all these different phases I’ve had musically. Because it’s been, I mean, it’s been a little bit of everything. You’ve been so kind to me in letting me explore genres, and step outside boxes that are created for us in the music industry. And that’s only because of you that I get to do that. So, thank you.”
Sex and Skin: Nothing real racy here. Instead, Swift’s numerous costume changes are a wonder of proprietary stage wear that includes glittery leotards, lavish lavender ball gowns, sparkly shorts, faux fur, and even a cloak. Notably, each design integrates an unobtrusive back-mounted pocket to support Swift’s in-ear monitor system.
Our Take: Taylor Swift writes most of her songs in a furiously first-person present tense, and for her fans, that’s immersive. Everyone can know it’s their love that should be celebrated. Everyone can be the actress starring in someone’s bad dreams. If it’s everyone’s reputation that’s never been worse, then it’s everyone who can be proud of being liked for who they are. “These are the words I held back as I was leaving too soon” – to see some of the fan cutaways in The Eras Tour, where people of all ages and walks shout along with her lyrics, their eyes squeezed shut, is continued proof of this saturating, symbiotic effect. But they’re in the room to experience Taylor’s perspective on these songs, too. Because of the reach of her ongoing, multiple continent-spanning tour, and because Eras was such a big hit in theaters, part of the fun of watching it at home is catching its most talked about moments. When Swift throws up her first hand heart early on, during the Fearless era, it’s returned by a kaleidoscope of the faithful. When the stage superstructure effortlessly transforms from bucolic Folklore cabin into the lit up, hard eighties angles of 1989, people are drinking in all of that magic, madness, heaven and sin. And when Swift seems to dive headfirst into clear blue water before reappearing for Midnights at the opposite end of the lengthy thrust, it’s a feat that feels as fresh as live theater on a stage hundreds of times smaller. As a star whose fans are legion, Taylor Swift has already provided them with loads of lore in songcraft form. Eras Tour is best at bringing visuals into that blank space, where everyone can write their name.
Our Call: STREAM IT. It’s like, how could you not? Whether you’re a newly-minted Swiftie, a head from way back, or someone wondering about all of the fuss – and in today’s culture, Taylor Swift remains a dominant force of aspirational, spiritual, and economic fuss – The Eras Tour is both concert film and clearing house, a spectacle that places viewers at the very center of what has made the singer and songwriter a true phenomenon.
Johnny Loftus (@glennganges) is an independent writer and editor living at large in Chicagoland. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift.