John Shearer/LP5/Getty Images for TAS
In case you were worried that Taylor Swift might not bounce back so easily from any personal drama that had occurred over the summer…
Ha, you’re good to quit thinking such nonsense right now.
The 26-year-old artist, suffering from a cold but otherwise not showing one iota of rust after a nearly 11-month break from performing live, tore up the stage at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, positively thrilling the announced crowd of at least 80,000 fans lucky enough to be witnessing in person Swift’s first and only concert of 2016.
“I’m Taylor—and welcome to F1 on a Saturday night!” she strutted down stage in a bedazzled black romper, her legs looking a mile long (a bit like the line of people that snaked around the venue who were hoping for a glimpse of the headliner while the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix qualifying was still underway).
After blazing through “New Romantics,” “22” and “Blank Space,” Swift took a moment to catch her breath—and wipe her nose, much to the fans’ delight both in person and online.
“So here we are tonight in Austin…I have missed you so much,” Taylor said. “I haven’t played a show since we ended the 1989 World Tour last year—and this is going to be my only show of 2016. I got a cold three days ago, so I have to take a tissue break. I’ll sound 40 percent better after this,” she promised, though judging by the feedback from anyone who was there, she sounded just fine to begin with.
“Of course you play one show and you get a cold,” Swift laughed. After slyly assuring the crowd that they were easily going to be her best crowd of 2016, she encourage them to “let go of anything that is stressing you out. Dance wildly and sing at the top of our lungs and scream when we want to scream! I’m so glad you are on board with that idea…Are you on board, Austin?!
“I have a feeling we are gonna have a good night tonight.”
But while, yes, concertgoers were treated to something special in person, the biggest, warmest welcome-home party was occurring online throughout the evening, from the fans live-tweeting the show to the ones crying their virtual eyes out that they were at dumb places like Disney World instead of watching Taylor perform, to those who couldn’t help but point out that anyone who predicted the end of the Taylor party couldn’t have been more wrong.
And while the subtweets about Katy Perry, Kanye West or anyone else perceived as Taylor’s nemesis were pointed and none too subtle, there was just so much love pouring forth from Twitter throughout.
WHEN EVERYONE THOUGH TAYLOR HAD LEFT THE MUSIC INDUSTRY, LOL TAYLOR SWIFT IS THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
— Crystal (@swiftistrouble) October 23, 2016
Taylor’s back on stage doing what she loves. Ask me if I’m okay.
— Taylor Swift (@TSwiftNeedsYou) October 23, 2016
taylor swift is so funny, she stay out of media for a long time and when she return she makes a BIG EXPLOSION #TaylorSwiftOnUSGP
— shout out to gd (@wearelmix) October 23, 2016
I swear to God that every single video clips send shivers to my spine
— CamEEla 🦄 (@TaylorUnicorn13) October 23, 2016
“This show is really special, because we have a lot of people from all around the world who traveled intense journeys–planes, cars, buses and all the other ways,” Swift said as she wrapped up “Style” and slung a guitar over her shoulder. “If you traveled from somewhere, thank you so much for doing that. It’s been 10 years since my first album came out, when I was 16. Since then, it felt like I’ve been opening up a journal and letting you read it.
“It’s so amazing that you still feel like reading it and coming out to Austin, Texas. So I was thinking I could play some songs I don’t usually play because they’re a little older. Since I do have a cold, and I have a guitar…here’s a song on an album called Fearless.”
John Shearer/LP5/Getty Images for TAS
Then came “You Belong With Me” and the fans started chanting her name, relishing the trip down memory lane that continued with “Fifteen.” Then she jumped to Red, singing “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” which transitioned into the 1989 barn-burner “Bad Blood.”
“So I first started writing song when I was 12,” Swift said. “Back then I didn’t have a lot of experience with love or relationships or anything. I would write songs based on movies I saw or books I read, or something we talked about in English class. One of the songs I wrote about was fiction and fantasy, based on two teenagers who fell in love. They couldn’t be together and that was just devastating for me, so I got inspired and I wrote a song and gave them a different ending…and I called it “Love Story.”
And for anyone who may have been waiting (or hoping) for Swift to get snippy, to shade an ex (she had acquired two more since the last time she performed) or otherwise address one of the hiccups that had plagued her over the summer…
You’re just gonna have to wait for the album.
Which isn’t to say that Taylor suffered any fools Saturday. Oh no, she was all about returning to form, sniffles aside, and she unquestionably took her power back when she sat down at the piano and sang a stripped-down rendition of “This Is What I Came For,” her first time publicly performing the track she co-wrote with then-beau Calvin Harris, which was a huge hit for him this summer and caused a bit of controversy when she finally came forward as one of the brains behind the operation.
A photo posted by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on Oct 22, 2016 at 7:45pm PDT
“As a songwriter, the most rewarding feeling in the world is writing something and having a crowd sing it back to you because you know the words,” Swift said, not exactly coyly but not that innocently either.
“I never played this song live before, but you know it. Maybe you can sing along.”
Lightning strikes every time Taylor Swift performs, that’s for sure.
And while those who had seen her live before (and surely there were tens of thousands of non-newbies in the crowd) were treated to something very similar to what they’d seen before, this show stands out for more than just being her sole engagement of 2016.
Rather, this was Taylor Swift’s first time ever performing after anything resembling a PR crisis, a controversy that could’ve hurt someone who didn’t have such an inimitable bond with her fans.
This was Taylor rebounding seamlessly from relationship drama, “Famous” drama, Twitter drama and whatever else rattled the Internet this summer—all of which now seems to have happened a long, long time ago.
The only thing fans were really quibbling with Saturday evening was that Swift didn’t spring a new single on them, the masses hoping for at least one track if not her entire sixth studio album (which, if you pay attention to Swiftian numerology, is due any day now).
Here I’m waiting news on #TS6 been checking updates all day long with my boyfriend @taylorswift13 cmon and drop that Hot Album now!!!!
— Le MexiCan (@Abelon94) October 23, 2016
*watches as ‘1989’ lantern disappears into the night sky*
*sets alarm for #TS6 and hibernates*
— Alex Goldschmidt (@alexandergold) October 23, 2016
But all that collective anguish only further proves what we predicted—that any fleeting burst of Twitter abuse would be no match in the end for Taylor Swift’s actual career.
The fans came to see the show of their lives, and that’s exactly what she gave them.
Taylor does usually release an album ever two years, and her window is narrowing, considering there hasn’t been a new single, yet. While fans continue to piece together the clues, intentional or entirely imagined, as to when—when!—the follow-up to 1989 will be ready, we do know one thing for certain.
When #TS6 does finally arrive, Swift will have done everything in her power to ensure it’ll have been worth the wait.