Taylor Swift Lives Up to Her Reputation in Houston
Taylor Swift Lives Up to Her Reputation in Houston

Taylor Swift Lives Up to Her Reputation in Houston

Taylor Swift with Special Guests Camila Cabello and Charli XCX
NRG Stadium, Houston, TX, September 29, 2018
Review and Photography by Jim Chapin

Taylor Swift has a reputation. No, I’m not referring to the tabloid-trash relationship/feud crapola. The reputation I am referring to has to do with her fans.  Miss Swift loves her “Swifties” and has a reputation for treating them as friends. That love was evident on Saturday night at Houston’s NRG Stadium. THis was the second to last stop of the U.S. leg of her Reputation Stadium Tour, with special guests Camila Cabello and Charli XCX.

Taylor Swift at NRG Stadium, Houston, TX 9/29/2018. © 2018 Jim Chapin PhotographyI have seen a lot of shows, both big and small. But never have I seen a production that on the one hand is so elaborate, so choreographed, and is so over the top and yet also retains an amazing sense of intimacy. Yes, Taylor Swift made a football stadium feel intimate.

From the LED bracelets that fans were given to wear, to playing on three distinct stages so that everyone in the stadium had a chance to see her a bit closer, everything was designed to be a part of an experience. A shared experience.

And her fans give back. The crowd was dancing and singing at the top of their lungs from the moment they took their seats. Many were dressed in costume. Those that weren’t, proudly wore the t-shirts they purchased at the show. They cheered wildly and sang along to every song from openers Camila Cabello and Charli XCX. And they completely lost it when Taylor hit the stage. They never let up until the house lights finally came back up some two hours later.

For her part, Swift served up a 23-song set that was heavy on the new tunes, yet never forgot old. The stage setup was massive, anchored with two gargantuan video screens, each angled slightly towards each side of the stadium. There were flames and fireworks, numerous costume changes, acrobatic dancers, giant inflatable snakes, and, well, you get the picture.  It was BIG.

Taylor Swift at NRG Stadium, Houston, TX 9/29/2018. © 2018 Jim Chapin PhotographyAs the sounds of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” came to an aggressive end, The stadium went dark and the crowd was treated to a video montage. As the video faded, the screens parted. Taylor emerged from the smoke in a sequined black bodysuit and black boots. The bass was thumping and she launched into “Ready For It.”  Ready or not, it’s on.

“I Did Something Bad” followed, with a cacophony of flames, sparks and other assorted fireworks erupting high above the crowd. The display was something you would expect at the end of the show. This was only the second song!

“Gorgeous” was next, followed by “Style,” which blended into “Love Story” and then “You Belong With Me.” This was the first of several medleys she performed in the set. These mash-ups served as a great way to cover tunes from her early catalog while leaving plenty of room for the new jams. And those new tunes followed.  “Look What You Made Me Do,” “End Game” and “King of My Heart”,

After a brief costume change, Swift returned to the stage in pink, blue and purple sequins and addressed the crowd, telling them that although she is in a stadium, the joy for her is connecting with every person in the audience. She explained that the wristbands everyone was wearing allowed her to see every person in the stadium from her spot on the stage. And she was right. At that moment, Each person was a bright white point of light. And at that moment, everyone was connected.

Taylor Swift at NRG Stadium, Houston, TX 9/29/2018. © 2018 Jim Chapin PhotographyAs the screens repeated the starfield backdrop, Swift stepped into a basket that lifted her upward. She sailed above the crowd while singing “Delicate.” As the song finished, she landed a small circular stage at the back of the stadium. The crowd went wild as she launched into “Shake It Off.” She was quickly surrounded by an array of dancers that included Camila Cabello and Charli XCX. Suddenly the huge show was amazingly small. The over-the-top production was reduced to dance-party and everyone was invited. No other way to say it. This was fun!

Remaining on the small stage, Taylor brought it down even further, performing two songs solo on acoustic guitar. Starting with “Dancing With Our Hands Tied “ off of Reputation, she then played a reworked version of “Wonderland” off of 1989 – a first for this tour.

Taylor walked through the crowd to another small stage on the opposite side of the stadium. Along the way she high-fived and greeted her fans, further reinforcing that personal connection.

Somehow she managed another costume change while performing “Blank Space” and “Dress” before once again taking to the skies with a medley of “Bad Blood” and “Should’ve Said No.”

Back on the main stage, we are again living large with a pyrotechnically spectacular “Don’t Blame Me.” Following, Taylor took to the piano for “Long Live” which segued beautifully into “New Year’s Day,”

Taylor Swift at NRG Stadium, Houston, TX 9/29/2018. © 2018 Jim Chapin PhotographySwift performed“Getaway Car,” before slowing things down with her ballad off of Reputation, “Call It What You Want,” sharing the stage with a large working fountain.

The evening came to a close with another medley “We Are Never Getting Back Together” and “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” The crowd went crazy as massive amounts of confetti rained down upon them.  Taylor waved goodbye, and it was over. The crowd was drained but happy.

It was truly a fantastic show, merging bombastic celebration with heartfelt intimacy. All I can say is… wow!


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TAYLOR SWIFT SETLIST: Act 1: reputation (Video Introduction), …Ready for It?, I Did Something Bad, Gorgeous, Style / Love Story / You Belong With Me
Act 2: Look What You Made Me Do (Video Interlude), Look What You Made Me Do (with Tiffany Haddish speech), End Game (Shortened), King of My Heart
Act 3: Delicate, Shake It Off (with Charli XCX and Camila Cabello), Dancing With Our Hands Tied (Acoustic), Wonderland (Acoustic)
Act 4: Blank Space, Dress, Bad Blood / Should’ve Said No
Act 5: Don’t Blame Me, Long Live / New Year’s Day (On piano)
Act 6: Why She Disappeared (Video Interlude, sequel to “… more ), Getaway Car, Call It What You Want, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together / This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things


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About the Author and Photographer

Jim Chapin
Freelance Live Music, Editorial & Event Photographer, Writer and Graphic Artist currently living it up in Austin, Texas - Live Music Capital of the World!
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