Taylor Swift Eras Tour in Singapore review: I'm a middle-aged metalhead. Here's how I sat through the opening concert

Will I become a full-fledged Swiftie by the time the concert is through? Or will I be repulsed by all the glittery sequin-clad fans?

Taylor Swift thrills the 60,000-odd crowd during her sold-out Eras Tour concerts at the National Stadium in Singapore. (PHOTO: TAS Rights Management)
Taylor Swift thrills the 60,000-odd crowd during her sold-out Eras Tour concerts at the National Stadium in Singapore. (PHOTO: TAS Rights Management)

WAS it YOLO (you only live once) or FOMO (fear of missing out) that made me agree immediately to review Taylor Swift's much talked-about Eras Tour concert at the National Stadium?

You see, I'm the wrong demographic to be a "Swiftie": male, on the wrong side of 40 years old, and (this is the most crucial part) an unapologetic heavy metal aficionado. I know fellow metalheads who would shirk away in horror at the thought of being anywhere near the glittery sequin-clad fans of the pop megastar.

But I do like Swift. I admire her exceptional songwriting talent, her effortless charm, and most of all, how she fought for what she believed in. Her battles with Spotify and especially for the ownership of her recordings from Scooter Braun are already the stuff of pop music lore, and typify her willingness to stand up against authorities in order to be herself. This rebellious streak of hers actually feels pretty "metal" to me.

The thing is, I've only sampled Swift's music in small doses - when one of her catchy songs come on my radio, or when I search online for her hits to hear what the fuss is about. Taken piecemeal, Swift's songs are enjoyable nuggets of radiant pop music, but I don't even own any of her 10 best-selling albums. What will happen if I have to brave her thousands of screaming fans and sit through more than 40 of her songs at one go?

It's not YOLO, nor is it FOMO. It's more out of curiosity, and a test of whether there's a place for Swift amid my hard rock and heavy metal music sensibilities.

Fans brighten Sports Hub with costumes, friendship bands

I had half a mind to attend the concert in my black Metallica T-shirt and black jeans, just to troll the Swifties and their bright-coloured attire. Thankfully I chickened out, and decided instead to wear a red polo shirt - paying homage to Swift's "Red" album, see?

I could just about blend in with the fans - local and foreign - who were out in full force on the opening night on Saturday. They were clad in their best Swift costumes as they strolled around Kallang Wave Mall, daring anyone to comment that they couldn't pull it off like their beloved idol. Some of them also had pink wigs, with their faces and nails painted for the occasion, and the mall resembled a surreal model runway for these superfans.

But the best thing about this fandom is the "friendship band" phenomenon - with fans exchanging these handmade bracelets with coloured and lettered beads spelling out Swift's album titles. It's a brilliant, organic fan movement that symbolises the deep connection between Swift and her fans. Now, if only metal fans can start a band T-shirt exchange movement... but I digress.

I got two friendship bands from my kind concert companion, and suddenly I felt like I'm a legit Swift fan as I entered the stadium to be among the 50,000-odd die-hards. Yes, I was ready to scream and sing blissfully along to all her hits. Or was I?

Swift is the consummate performer at her show

Swift stepped onto the gigantic stage on the dot at 7pm, and the stadium was immediately enveloped in high-pitched screams from her faithful Swifties. Mobile phones were whipped out and held up high, with the fans excitedly recording their idol's every move as they lustily sang along to "Cruel Summer".

Immediately I felt inadequate. Yes I've heard that hit before, but no, I didn't memorise every word. Every of the Swifties did. It was a goosebumps-inducing moment to hear 50,000 voices belting out the "it's a cruuueeel summer" chorus hook. That was the only line I sang along though, as I mumbled through the rest.

Thankfully, Swift didn't mind, with her mile-wide smile plastered on the massive backdrop screen as she breezed through the lilting songs from her "Lover" album. That was the first stop of her Eras Tour set, which would take the concert-goers through all but one of her 10 LPs in her wildly-successful 20-year career. "For those who have come on board for the first time, let us show them all the fun they've missed," she cooed.

Taylor Swift is utterly in command of her Eras Tour show. (PHOTO: TAS Rights Management)
Taylor Swift is utterly in command of her Eras Tour show. (PHOTO: TAS Rights Management)

So what did I miss all these years? Well, a consummate performer who was equally at ease whether she was singing amid intricately-choreographed dance moves with her troupe, belting out diva-style on a raised platform, or alone in the spotlight, guitar in hand, singing plaintively as she did when she started out as a country-folk singer all those years ago. Even with cameras constantly on her, Swift was utterly in command of her show.

But she wouldn't have been half as popular without the masterful songs she wrote. Not only did she oblige with her biggest hits such as "Love Story", "Anti-Hero" and "Shake It Off", but she also delved into her rich trove of personal yet universal tunes that captivated fans of all ages around the world.

"Majorie", about her maternal grandmother, was an emotional highlight as fans spontaneously lit up the stadium with their phone lights and a visibly-touched Swift recounted her personal connection with Singapore. On one of the night's more improvisational moments, Swift deftly blended "Mine" with "Starlight" - songs from different albums, but evoking the same sentiments.

My personal highlight came midway through her set, as she stood alone with her guitar on the raised platform with a flowing red dress. For over 10 hypnotic minutes, Swift had the audience rapt with "All Too Well", her devastating breakup tale. No backup dancers, no pyrotechnics, just a woman with her broken heart. It was magnificently heart-rending.

Even more impressed by Swift than before

And still her songs came, and came, and came - until a staggering 45 of them were belted out after three hours and 15 minutes. Everyone was happy but utterly spent by the time Swift took her final bow.

Amazingly, Swift was still able to dance through her final song "Karma". I was already nursing aching limbs - and I still had to contend with dragging my tired body with the thousands heading home.

So, am I a full-fledged Swiftie now, having sat through her entire Eras Tour show? Of course not. As much as I deeply admire her songwriting skills, her songs are decidedly feminine. To quote my companion, they evoke exactly how a woman feels at every stage of her life. Not a man.

And because I'm male, it's really weird for me to try singing along to songs like "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" or "You Belong With Me". They most certainly don't speak to me as much as to Swift's female faithfuls.

But that's perfectly fine. I still have the earthy stomps and masculine lyrics of hard rock and heavy metal to get my adrenaline going. And it was still an evening absolutely well spent - I was thoroughly entertained by Swift, and there were enough emotional highs in her wondrous performance to make for a memorable occasion. At the end of the show, I was left even more impressed by Swift's all-around musical talents.

Now, if only I can convince the Singapore government to provide a grant to bring in Metallica....

Taylor Swift performed for over three hours, and still managed to dance through her final song at National Stadium. (PHOTO: TAS Rights Management)
Taylor Swift performed for over three hours, and still managed to dance through her final song at National Stadium. (PHOTO: TAS Rights Management)

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