Taylor Swift performs Wednesday night at the Ford Center. (Photo by Steve Maupin/Look @ OKC)
Music sensation Taylor Swift again proved her undeniable talent for tapping the keen longings of adolescence with her crowd-thrilling concert Wednesday night at the Ford Center.
Just as the 20-year-old singer-songwriter pens her chart-toppers with a clear awareness of the power of young love and heartbreak, Swift’s cannily plotted show plays out like the ultimate fantasy concert for girls eager to see their favorite star live. The “Fearless 2010 Tour” is packed with teen-pleasing theatrics, from confetti cannons and costume changes to sweet acoustic ballads and chair-flinging rebellion.
To be honest, the four-time Grammy Award winner worked much harder than needed to ensure the sell-out crowd went home happy. The adoring Ford Center audience, dominated by parents escorting girls ranging from preschoolers to teenagers, squealed its approval practically every time Swift tossed her signature blond locks (which she did often), hoisted her spangly guitar, started or finished a song on her hit parade. Even the appearance of the Taylor Swift logo on the huge video screens induced eardrum-piercing shrieks of anticipation.
From the opening number, Swift set the stage for her version of the ultimate “High School Musical.” The stage-concealing curtain depicting a romantic ballroom fell away to reveal six dancers dressed as cheerleaders, vast video screens simulating lockers and Swift’s seven-piece band clad in marching uniforms. Swift emerged at the top of the towering stage dressed in full drum majorette garb and conducted the arena through her fist-pumping teen anthem “You Belong With Me.”
She quickly shed her uniform in favor of her usual short sparkling dress and coordinating boots — a fashion statement copied by many of her fans — and skipped across the stage playing her guitar and singing the infectious “Our Song.”
With the fans shouting along with every lyric, the annoying echo that plagued the venue during opening acts Gloriana and Kellie Pickler was less noticeable. What was clearly noticeable is that Swift is obviously more comfortable singing at an actual concert than on a televised awards show. She is far from a powerhouse singer on par with Reba McEntire or Carrie Underwood, but her vocals sounded strong and sure for the majority of her two-hour set.
She showed off her respectable singing abilities during a mostly acoustic second act. While a funny video segment poking fun at her habiting of naming names in her breakup songs distracted the audience, Swift emerged at the entrance to one of the lower level sections to croon “Hey Stephen.” With the rhythm section playing an extended solo, she slowly made her way through the crowd, hugging practically every fan within reach as she descended to the arena floor.
Perched on a stool on a small platform at the opposite end of the arena from her stage, she crooned her bittersweet ballads “Fifteen” and “Tim McGraw,” songs that got the crowd ardently singing along. As she worked her way back to the stage, she again hugged fans, squeezed their outstretched hands and scrawled quick autographs.
“Oklahoma City, I hope you know that I’m going to love you forever. Thank you so much,” she said, looking awed and ecstatic at the thunderous roars of appreciation that followed her stripped-down performance and crowd-pleasing hugfest.
Swift did more than just sing; she often talked to the crowd during the show. Exhibiting her great gift for connecting with her fervent fans, she retold the already-familiar stories behind her songs and waxed philosophical about growing up. And she said thank you a lot.
“I want to take a second to thank you for the things you’ve taught me,” she said. “For example, I’ve learned I’m not the only girl who burns her ex-boyfriends’ pictures. And I’ve learned that I’m not the only person who still believes in love stories.
“And I’ve learned that you can start out writing songs and playing guitar on your bedroom floor and you just might end up playing a sold-out arena in the great state of Oklahoma.”
The music video star also ended up embracing whatever role her songs had her playing. She was back in a school desk to perform the heartbroken teen ballad “Teardrops on My Guitar,” and she flung a chair from the top of the stage during the raging “Forever & Always.” She donned a lavish crimson ball gown and glided among dancers dressed in Victorian finery while warbling “Love Story,” then pounded at a grand piano while tinted smoke swirled at her feet during the fiery “You’re Not Sorry.”
Appropriately, Swift closed the show with a one-two punch of exhilaration and fury. The star emerged for her encore wearing a little black dress and trilling the joyous love song “Today Was a Fairytale” while confetti cannons rained down colorful ribbons. She shifted into woman-scored temper for her final song, “Should’ve Said No,” engaging in an over-the-top percussion showdown with bandmate Caitlin Evanson before spewing the final lines under a gushing waterfall.
Some of Swift’s melodramatic moments, such as collapsing in a heartbroken heap onstage at the end of “Forever & Always,” were a little overblown for grown-up tastes. But Swift’s onstage dramatics, just like the emotional sagas of her songs, hit all the right notes with her young fans.
The singer-songwriter needed no help warming up the already enthused crowd, but she got high-energy support from promising quartet Gloriana, whose four-part harmonies on “Wild at Heart” and “If You’re Leaving” sounded terrific despite the irritating echo in the arena.
In addition, former “American Idol” contender Kellie Pickler brought plenty of sass, if less vocal prowess, to the show as she performed her hits “Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful,” “Best Days of Your Life” and “Red High Heels.”