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Eras Lives Up to the Hype (while Humiliating Hollywood)

"I was born in 1989..."

I had a lot of questions going in. Will this work for non-Swifties like me? Is Eras just a collection of music videos, or will it actually feel like I'm at a concert? And, most importantly, can it be entertaining for a full three hours?

But as soon we entered the theater I could tell her magic had already worked, because, unlike most of my trips to the movies this year, this time every seat was filled.

Since I'm the sort of person who listens to The Frames or Led Zeppelin, I can't take you on a deep dive into the vast Taylor Swift lore. Mind you, I'm not a hater. In fact, her poetic discipline and constant hard work make Taylor Swift a easy person to admire.

And I'm not totally ignorant. I married a Swift fan who happens to be a pretty good musician and songwriter, and I got to play guitar with her at a Taylor Swift tribute show:

That song earned me the most applause I ever heard in my life, and that's the Taylor Swift Effect. Anything that has anything to do with her is automatically more successful. If she was photographed reading one of my books I'd never have to work again, and I'm sure this article will get more hits than all of my others put together. (Which isn't saying much, since I mostly write about old 90s shows.)

So, since I'm a Taylor Swift agnostic, I decided to judge this movie on its merits as, you know, a movie. How does watching a very long concert video compare to my usual experiences in the theater?

For starters, she accomplished two things that Hollywood hasn't been able to do: she released a movie during the strike and packed every theater across the country. This thing is doing so well it could outsell Barbie, for crying out loud.

Are you wondering how she did all of this while a strike is going on? It's simple: Taylor Swift agreed to the union terms. Swift, the good boss who actually gives her backup singers health insurance, is showing Hollywood executives how it should be done. If you really want to make movies, then sign the papers and stop being a jerk. It's that easy.

My biggest concerns were about the sound production. If it's done badly, you end up with over-produced sounds that are basically the same as listening to the recordings you already have. That's not worth the price of admission.

Also, I happen have some experience in broadcasting concerts, and I always prided myself on making the audience feel like they were actually there. I wanted them to hear shuffling noises, microphone handling, mistakes, coughs, and everything else that makes a concert feel different than a CD. (And I hate burst your bubble, but a lot of the "live" albums we listen to have had fake crowds added to studio recordings. But you didn't hear that from me...)

Anyway, how did Eras do? For starters, it felt like a live concert just because everyone in the packed theater held the star in absolute reverence. This is actually third time I've seen Swift in a movie while at the theater, and when she appeared in those films everyone hushed their voices, stowed their phones, and stared in awed silence, like Italians when the Pope-mobile drives their way. This devotional hero worship was the default state of the audience during Eras. The entire room was slain with star-struck wonder.

In terms of appearances, this movie looks exactly like you'd expect. Taylor Swift dominates the silver screen for nearly three hours, looking picture-perfect in each frame. The visuals are as colorful and sparkly as her sequined onesies. Handheld cams get us close to the action, while the wide angles overhwelm with their views of the vast crowds.

The energy is non-stop. Rather than a lengthy build up, Taylor is onscreen almost immediately and practically never leaves. There's almost no pause between sets. She dances in a snakeskin dress for a few songs, then quickly sheds her skin to reappear in a Cinderella gown. The music rarely stops, and neither do the enchanting visuals, creating a relentless powerhouse of emotion from start to finish.

How does it sound? Incredible. I don't know much of her music, but the songs I recognized sounded better (to me) than the versions I've heard, probably because of the extra bass and the fantastic echoes bouncing off the top rows. The screaming crowd made my ears buzz in a way I've only experienced at big shows. Simply put, the sound design was dynamite. It actually felt like I was there.

And the screentime? This really is a triumph. There's forty-four songs divided by ten acts, spread out over nearly three hours. Honestly, that sounds like a chore. I mean, no one ever wants to listen to every Zeppelin album with me. But I, a non-Swiftie, enjoyed every moment of Eras, and never once felt tired of sitting. I'm pretty sure the audience could have watched another three hours, and I would have been fine with that too.

The best part is the blooper reel, which I remember being my favorite part of movies back when those were popular. After watching Taylor Swift floating around like a goddess, it's wonderful to see her struggling with mics and getting her sleeves caught on things.

Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour is full of joy and it's full of tears. There's a breakup for every Cinderella story, and a minor key for every resolution. But through all of it, we're encouraged to celebrate our lives and our contributions, and to respect ourselves. This is powerful stuff. People leave the Eras concerts with a sense of dignity about their feelings.

But as impressive as Taylor Swift is, sometimes the fans are the real stars. Every trip to the front row reveals Swifties clutching cell phones while bawling their eyes out. Someone finally gave voice to their innermost struggles, and that person is strutting around in a sparkly leotard just out of reach, beaming down with that famous smile. There's plenty of teenage girls in the crowd, like you'd expect, alongside older couples who sing along while they embrace, and tough guys with crew cuts who know every word to every song. Eras is a celebration of Taylor Swift's journey, which has also been the journey of countless people as they follow her through lessons of life and love.

Adam D. Jones is a writer, historian, and undefeated cat wrestler. He's also something of a pop icon himself, having recently spilled glitter on himself while trying to steal a safety pin from his wife's art supplies.


  1. I'm so glad that this was good! I was going to see it this weekend, but got pretty ill and figured me sitting in a dark, crowded room for 3+ hours was probably not the best way to go.

    I've been a Swiftie since... oh geez, middle school? So many memories of sitting in the car with my mom singing along to her albums that we actually bought on discs and getting ready to go to her Red concert tour together. Her shows are absolutely magical in person, and I'm so glad that it translated well on screen. Definitely have to go next weekend when I'm feeling better.

  2. Thanks! My granddaughter is a big fan, and so she made me watch some videos last weekend. I'm usually into Bach, but I enjoyed it.


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