SouthFlorida.com
Make every weekend epic with our free Weekender newsletter. Sign up today!
The Go Guide Places, people and life with Ben Crandell

Review: Taylor Swift rocks Hard Rock Stadium | Photos

About halfway through a sultry Saturday night filled with big rock-star moments, from columns of flames and fireworks to bare-chested gymnasts, multiple costume changes and giant inflatable snakes, within a cavernous Hard Rock Stadium crammed with more than 64,000 worshipers, pop idol Taylor Swift went country again.

Somewhere between the confetti avalanche that was “Shake It Off” — with the singer joined by opening acts Camila Cabello (in a Miami Dolphins jersey) and Charli XCX — and the fist-pumping sing-along “Blank Space,” Swift stood on a small, secondary stage at the rear of the stadium with a green acoustic guitar slung over her shoulder to introduce a song she was “99 percent sure” she’d never played live.

A heartfelt breakup ballad, “Breathe” was recorded 10 years ago for a then 18-year-old Swift’s second studio album, “Fearless,” a Grammy-winning release on Nashville’s Big Machine Records. Accompanied only by her guitar, Swift held a packed football stadium spellbound, singing “I can't breathe without you / But I have to.”

As often as Swift ruled the massive space with large, fiery gestures on Saturday night, it was her ability to maintain command in such quieter moments that may have been more impressive.

Three years after she played for 20,000 people at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena, Swift’s current “Reputation” tour represents her first-ever stadium tour. The girl that performed in 2015 returned this time a whole new woman, with more confidence, more demanding choreography, more je ne sais quoi.

Singing in front of a dominating, 172-foot-by-40-foot video screen, held in place by an impressive labyrinth of steel and cable, Swift rolled through a two-hour set that included most of her big hits and all the songs, in full or in snippets, from her 2017 album “Reputation.” She was aided by a band, including four guitarists, two keyboardists and a drummer.

The crowd was largely female — this was music that moms and their tween, teen and 20-something daughters could all sing and sway to without embarrassing one another — with lots of glitter and kitten ears on heads. Many younger girls wore T-shirts covered in lyrics, including one that was Sharpie-ed: “I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me.”

The lighted wristbands of Swift’s previous tour returned, but this time they were programmed to illuminate in patterns, sending waves of blues, reds and golds through the audience, while patterns of snakes and hearts also weaved through the darkness.

Dressed in a sparkling black leotard and matching boots (her default attire, in several colors), and accompanied by more than a dozen black-clad dancers dressed like menacing Cossacks, Swift opened large with “Ready for It?”

Other big moments came with “You Belong to Me” (you may have felt tremors from the audience jumping in unison at about 9:30 p.m.), “Look What You Made Me Do” (featuring a four-story inflatable cobra), “Delicate” (as Swift rode a small, twinkling gondola the length of the field), “Bad Blood”(when the video screen separated into smaller panels around which shirtless dudes flipped and flopped) and the tortured romance of “Don’t Blame Me” (with Swift on her knees singing, “Lord, save me, my drug is my baby,” as flames shot into the air).

Pushing sweat-soaked hair from her face, Swift then sat at the piano to offer the ballad “New Year’s Day,” telling her young audience, ‘It’s a song about you guys.” Her voice softening and sweetening, Swift sang, “Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you,” as wristbands around the room glowed pink and purple.

With her parents and other family and friends in the audience, Miami-raised Camila Cabello returned with a polished, 40-minute set that opened with one big hit, “Never Be the Same,” and closed with another, a showstopping version of “Havana” that energized the crowd as much as any song of the night, Swift’s included.

“Miami, it’s so good to be home,” Cabello told the crowd during “Never Be the Same,” then swinging into the lyric, “You're in my blood, you're in my veins … ”

Backed by a four-piece band, and flanked by a half-dozen male and female dancers, Cabello ruled the stage with stylish swagger and a sweet, pixyish enthusiasm — along with one of the great smiles in pop music — a welcome departure from the silly bump-and-grind affectation of her old group, Fifth Harmony.

Whether she was performing her pop hit “Bad Things” or the romantic ballad “Consequences” on piano, Cabello was right at home in the massive space with a set that represented another step forward in her evolution to arena-filling headliner.

Saucy British pop singer Charli XCX opened the 7:30 p.m. concert with the sun still up, prancing through hits including “Boom Clap,” her Icona Pop collaboration “I Love It” and the Iggy Azalea duet “Fancy.”

bcrandell@sun-sentinel.com

Copyright © 2018, South Florida
81°