Footage of Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour has been inescapable on social media. People are dressing up, dancing, screaming, crying and exchanging friendship bracelets – and that’s just at the movie.
Yes, for those who didn’t get highly covetable tickets to Swift’s sold-out shows, the 33-year-old singer and songwriter has kindly released a movie of the concert, so you can get the (almost) complete experience in your local theatre, but with better views (including close-ups of Swift’s facial expressions, customised microphones and crystal-laden Christian Louboutin boots).
Filmed during Swift’s three concerts at SoFi Stadium in California, the movie captures nearly the entire live show, clocking in at two hours and 48 minutes. The Eras Tour is a whirlwind trip through Swift’s 17 years recording music, and covers her 10 studio albums, with each album, apart from her debut ‘Taylor Swift’, represented as an ‘era’ in the show, and a couple of surprise songs thrown in each set.
As just a casual fan of Swift, who didn’t even try to get tickets to her Australian concerts (unlike what felt like most of Australia and New Zealand), I was worried that it might be a bit boring to sit through an almost three-hour film of a concert where I only knew half the songs. But the incessant social media footage of the tour intrigued me, and when I found myself in Australia with my Swift-obsessed nieces just after the film’s release date, I decided to take them along.
Little did I know, I’d walk away a full-fledged Swiftie, with the need to see the movie again the week after – and the desire to queue in the Ticketek lounge along with other Swifties for the latest release of Australian tickets today (even if it’s for a terrible view in an obstructed seat!).
The Australian viewing
I had two kids in tow, 9-year-old Clementine and her 4-year-old sister Meredith – who ensured us she would be able to sit through a three-hour concert movie. Preparations for the 12pm movie started at 8am, with much thought going into outfit choices, nail colours and makeup (that was just the kids – I barely had time to put on clothes and pass my 2-year-old son off to my sister).
At a suburban mall 45 minutes north of Sydney, I dropped $40 on two flimsy plastic The Eras Tour cups and two boxes of branded popcorn because I’m a cool, generous aunt.
There was a holographic frame to take a selfie in and a table set up with DIY friendship bracelets inspired by the bracelets concert-goers have been exchanging as a tribute to the lyric “so make the friendship bracelets” in Swift’s song You’re on Your Own, Kid.
From the very first frame, I was enthralled. And so was Clementine: seeing her idol on the big screen was a transcendental experience, she sang and danced along to nearly every song, and clapped and cheered at the end of each. It helped that others in the audience were bringing the same spirit – even though the cinema was pretty empty, there were about three or four groups of young girls singing and dancing. Afterwards, she said that it felt like a real concert and I had to agree.
I don’t know if it was seeing Clementine’s joy, or the infectious joy from the cinema attendees and concert attendees on film, or if Swift just has this effect, but through much of the film I was teary, as she filled the screen with her cheesy charm and melodic voice. Other times I was just trying to keep track of my nieces as they ran up and down the steps to dance at the front of the cinema or sprinted to the toilets and back.
Meredith handled the long screening well – she only asked if it was bedtime once. Other questions included asking the colour of each lolly she was about to eat, and when Taylor would sing her favourite song, Wildest Dreams. I kept telling her it was coming. At the end, when it hadn’t played, I discovered that it was one of only a handful of songs cut from the movie to keep it under three hours. So thanks Taylor, for making me lie to a child (jk, don’t come for me Swifties).
Her only other comments during the movie were that Taylor’s legs were very shiny (good tights, I explained) and that she likes Taylor “because she’s so pretty”, and while it may not be the most important point, I don’t disagree. She did look amazing on the big screen, with her red lips and hair that became increasingly tousled and sweaty, but somehow looked even better, as the show went on.
The New Zealand screening
After returning home and struggling to come down from the concert high, I shared my joy with my group chat back home. Only one friend, Hannah, showed any interest in seeing the movie, so I immediately offered to accompany her. We took in a Friday night screening in Mission Bay.
This time there were no friendship bracelets, selfie stations or commemorative popcorn boxes, just a few other attendees sitting sedately. If we wanted singing and dancing, the time slot may have been our mistake. The tweens must have been in bed, so there was no one to inspire us to let go of our too-cool-to-sing-and-dance attitudes. The guy behind us sang along at a low octave and we managed a little singalong to a few songs under our breath and shimmied a bit in our seats.
I don't know if this more understated vibe was due to the cultural difference between New Zealand and Australia, with Kiwis being too laid back to let loose, or if it was due to the older demographic. From my very thorough TikTok research, the first night in New Zealand brought the vibes so it could just be that Swift’s true fans had already been and boogied, or maybe they’re still doing so, only at the day screenings.
However, Swift’s storytelling is one of the things many people love her for, and it was this that I was able to take in at the second screening. Without the responsibility of looking after someone else’s children, I could really listen to the lyrics of each song. Hannah told me she has heard Swift referred to as the Shakespeare of our time (this Shakespeare professor makes a compelling case for the claim).
Hannah also filled me in on some of the back stories and ex boyfriends each song was about. And now, whenever I watch Donnie Darko, I will forever see the guy that very likely broke Swift’s young heart and inspired the most heartbreaking breakup anthem, All too Well (listen to the 10 minute version for full emotional breakdown).
The Taylor effect
The Eras Tour movie is helping to reignite the concert film genre (with the upcoming Renaissance: A Film by Beyonce set to continue the trend). Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour is already the highest-grossing global concert film release of all time. The tour itself is tipped to become the highest-grossing tour of all time and has helped to cement Swift’s billionaire status (as estimated by Bloomberg). It’s even boosted the economy in the US, causing a “Taylor Swift effect” in cities, bringing in millions of dollars in hotel bookings and other spending on the nights Swift is in town.
As I consider if it’d be weird to see the movie a third time, I trawl the Taylor Swift subreddit, which I’m now a fully participating member of, and come across a new fan who has seen the movie 11 times.
Also on Reddit, a “football fan” turned “Swiftie man” who lost a bet and had to listen to Swift’s entire discography and review each song in six days, and a “30-year-old straight guy” who wrote a 125,000 word report rating every Taylor Swift song, music video and live performance and then went to The Eras Tour and called it “a borderline-transcendental experience that blew away any other concert I’ve ever been to in my life.”
And maybe that’s the power of Swift, and why she has so many millions of dedicated fans. As we all try frantically to rediscover that feeling of joy or release of emotion we felt while watching her perform – whether live, on our phones or at the movies.
And as for why The Eras Tour is resonating with so many people, this New York Times piece sums it up beautifully. Through this tour, Swift is giving herself – and her listeners – permission to revisit past lives and eras with love, rather than being ashamed of who you may have been when you were younger. And she’s been shamed enough by the media, and other artists, to deserve this chance at reclaiming her narrative.