Courtesy of the artist
Courtesy of the artist

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As I learned Sunday night, a Taylor Swift concert is its own ecosystem with its own natural order. Bathed in blue light at a sold-out Verizon Center, the sweet-voiced, ginger-haired Ed Sheeran is elevated to the rank of Dear Leader; children are both marketed to and disregarded; moms sport Taylor Swift back patches; and everyone, at some point, weeps. In short, Weird Things happen. Here’s what I witnessed.

  • British opener Ed Sheeran came with his own Ed’s Huge Face, an Orwellian backdrop that stared at the audience while Ed’s Little Face commanded his followers to sing “Hell Yeah.” They obeyed.
  • Inside the mind of Ed Sheeran: “Kids in the audience? Who cares! Ed’s Little Face does not censor himself! Children will scream for my covers of Blackstreet‘s ‘No Diggity’ and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis‘ ‘Thrift Shop’!”

  • Swift entered with Icona Pop’s “I Love It” melded with Lenny Kravitz’s version of “American Woman.” Icona Pop’s song contains the lyrics “I threw your shit into a bag and pushed it down the stairs/ I crashed my car into the bridge/ I don’t care…You’re from the ’70s, but I’m a ’90s bitch.” This inspired a mass sing-along.
  • Question: Was the apparently unaccompanied, elementary school-age child with the Smartphone in the seat next to me also a music critic?
  • A doo-wop lite version of Swift’s hit “You Belong With Me” sounded wrung of every emotion.
  • Gah! I turned around to see a denim jacket-clad mother sporting a homemade T-shirt with a scary drawing of Ed’s Huge Face, holding up some creepy fan art.
  • Swift (efficiently?) squeezed two of the worst moments of her show into one song: After tweaking the lyrics of “Stay Stay Stay” to reference The [Pigskins] (thanks but no thanks), she wove in an abbreviated cover of The Lumineers’ inescapable, horrible “Ho Hey.”
  • I spotted a middle-aged guy sporting the most expensive item from her merch bazaar: a $250 letterman tour jacket.
  • The singer-songwriter’s parents and brother were in the audience for this Mother’s Day show. Accordingly, Swift played the sappy-but-sweet “The Best Day,” moving some in the audience to sob uncontrollably. American Greetings is a tour sponsor.

  • Thank You for Enjoying the Taylor Swift Steampunk Experience ™ (above)
  • Live, Swift doubled the dubstep ingredient in “I Knew You Were Trouble.” The song received an extended Skrillex-inspired intro. And a distorted violin solo within that intro. Why.
  • “Love Story”: OK, yeah, this was awesome.

  • Swift closed the show with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and blasts of heart-shaped confetti.
  • With the house lights on (no encore tonight), I got an eyeful of the people behind me: The mom sported a hand-drawn back patch featuring Swift and a kitten. Daughter donned a design of Ed’s Huge Face. PUNK IS DEAD. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

Photos by Emily Williams