Taylor Swift

By Kelly Carmichael and Jo Coulam

Artist:  Taylor Swift

Date / Venue:  Friday November 29th, Vector Arena, Auckland

Fresh from winning the American Music Association artist of the year for the third time, Taylor Swift gave a spectacular concert at the Vector Arena last night. The second leg of the pop star's Red tour, which will see Swift perform 79 shows internationally, opened in Auckland to a sold out crowd of all ages.

Kicking off with State of Grace, also the first song on her Red album the tour supports, Taylor Swift offered up her thoughts on the highs and lows of love, something of a recurring theme for evening. Throwing her black hat into the crowd, she also kicked off a continuing and heartfelt interaction with the audience. Through a series of costume changes and a seemingly never ending series of red outfits and accessories - including a red rhinestoned microphone, red guitar, red shorts and red lipstick, an allegiance also echoed by the crowd who speckled the arena in red clothing - Swift explained her preoccupation with the colour. Red, for this pop star, is the colour that most represents the deepest thoughts, feelings and doubts about love and became the force behind her album and tour.

Speaking often to the audience during the fun filled and uplifting performance, Swift delivered 90 minutes of incredible energy with the polish and confidence of a performer much older. An active and engaging performer, Swift's sets and special effects included a circus theme, flying sparks, music box and dramatic scenarios all wrapped up in a colourful vaudevillian performance, backed up by a dozen or so dancers and large band.

Although it's a slick act, there's something friendly and genuine about Taylor Swift. The crowd love her and she made every effort to relate to and connect with her fans throughout the gig, including a set and striking multi-level staging that let her move through and fly over the audience on a mechanical arm. There was even a small stage at the rear of the arena where Swift moved to during her hit song 22, touching hands and greeting fans along the way while a montage of photos and home videos from childhood to 22 played on the giant screens.

The old favourites You Belong With Me and Sparks Fly had the crowd excitedly on their feet, but most of the new Red album seemed to be well known also. The crowd sang along loudly to Swift's characteristic confessionals such as the banjo inflected Mean, her big hit I Knew You Were Trouble and All Too Well. Her final song of the evening, the catchy chart topper We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, brought the house down. The smarting lyrics and girl next door demeanour of the video gave way to a fantastical, circus tinged performance. Fairies, clowns and stilt-walkers took to the stage while Taylor Swift, their ring leader in a top hat and red sequined tails, dealt out her own particular brand of girl power. As she left the stage to thundering applause from the audience, heart shaped confetti exploded from the ceiling and was excitedly gathered up by fans. A few tickets remain for the final 3rd show on Sunday evening.... after word gets out they won't last long.