Just as she concluded a fiery duet with special guest Pitbull on his club hit “Give Me Everything,” sparkly pop ingenue Taylor Swift slowed things down so she could explain one of the more memorable flourishes of her Tuesday night concert at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Pitbull collaboration was an exclamation point on the first third of the show, a sexy and theatrical set that took its cue from the opening number, “Welcome to New York,” which introduced the milky Swift against black-and-white projections of street scenes as an urban party girl surrounded by a dozen leaping b-boy dancers.
The hits that followed – “New Romantics,” “Blank Space,” “I Wish You Would,” “How to Get the Girl” and “I Know Places” from the album that gave the tour its name, “1989,” and “I Knew You Were Trouble,” from 2012’s “Red” – all simmered with a similar sensuality as Swift displayed more skin with each outfit.
“I Know Places” received a uniquely provocative hard-rock reading, with the leggy Swift in thigh-high black boots and garters stalking barechested dancers along a catwalk in a way that, bearing in mind Swift’s squeaky-clean image, we’ll call Fifty Shades of Cotton Candy.
But the mood turned dramatically after she bid Pitbull farewell with a hug (“such a gentleman,” she said in her introduction). Alone with an acoustic guitar, Swift set out explaining the purpose of the white plastic bracelet that fans had found taped to each seat when they sat down. The mystery of its capability – there was something visible inside but no button to turn it on – was revealed when the show started and each bracelet began to glow in unison.
This offered plenty of novelty, as your wrist and the wrists of thousands of other fans in the arena simultaneously changed from white to blue to red and green, or turned on or off to suit a dramatic moment in a song. If it was a little unnerving to have a light on your body controlled by the unseen hand of some great and powerful wizard behind the curtain, it also was great fun.
Swift, however, had other things on her mind, explaining that each light was a symbol of unity among her young sisterhood of fans, many of whom are at an age when they are struggling with friendships, romance and self-image in an environment pressurized by social-media viciousness. Each star in the galaxy the lights created in the room was as important to her as another, she said.
“You may not think we can see you up there,” she said to fans in the far reaches of the darkened arena, “but we see you.”
This was Taylor Swift the supportive big sister talking, a role the 25-year-old seems to enjoy and one that the many tween girls in the audience seem to find comforting, though it that may be more difficult to maintain as her pop-star ambitions go into overdrive (“1989” was the top-selling album of 2014 and made many year-end best-of lists).
Swift crowned the moment with her 2008 teen-angst anthem “Fifteen,” accompanied only by her guitar and thousands of particularly joyful fans on one of many boisterous sing-alongs during the evening.
Befitting the name of the 1989 World Tour, the concert included 11 songs from “1989,” and roared to a close with “Style,” “Bad Blood,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (from “Red”), “Wildest Dreams,” “Out of the Woods” and “Shake It Off,” a show-stopper that Swift delivered in a pink-LED accented dress.
Some of these songs Swift performed on the edge of a nearly floor-length catwalk that was remarkable for its ability to rise 20 or so feet into the air and rotate 360 degrees, bringing Swift eye to eye with fans at the top of the first level.
Other highlights included a visit from Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, who told the AmericanAirlines Arena crowd, “I’ve played here for 13 years and I’ve never heard it this loud.” Wade left the singer with a Heat jersey with her name on the back.
Swift has performed with an eclectic list of surprise guests in many cities on her tour, including Mick Jagger, Keith Urban, Ellie Goulding, Charli XCX, Miranda Lambert, Wiz Khalifa, Alanis Morissette and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. Along with Pitbull on Tuesday night, a dashing Ricky Martin paid a visit to the AAA, joining Swift in a spirited version of “Livin’ La Vida Loca.”