Taylor Swift Wows Austin Crowd at Only 2016 Concert

Singer debuts piano rendition of "This Is What You Came For" to crowd of 80,000 at Texas race track

Taylor Swift debuted her piano rendition of "This Is What You Came For" in front of 80,000 people at Austin race track gig, her only concert of 2016. Credit: Roger Ho for Rolling Stone

Scattered in the crowd at Taylor Swift's only concert performance of 2016 were plenty of signs from fans attesting to how far they'd traveled to be in Austin on Saturday night. Plenty belonged to residents of far eastern or Pacific states, but the one that verified a trip from Honduras (approx. distance: 1,270 miles) to see Swift live was a pretty stark testament to the level of star power in play.

What the estimated 80,000 fans gathered from all compass points at the Circuit of The Americas race track got was an emphatic statement of why Swift is the recipient of such loyalty from fans all over the globe.

From the moment Swift emerged from jets of colored fog to the drum snap of "New Romantics," she commanded the huge festival-sized stage in front of her and projected every stalking step, shimmy and perfectly timed wink or hair flip out to the tens of thousands of fans gathered acres away on lawn seating.

Early on Swift acknowledged that the Austin show was her only 2016 show after spending much of the year prior on the world-spanning tour in support of the 1989 album, and that she was looking forward to reconnecting with fans despite recovering from a cold that could have some impact on her vocals. 

However, she persevered throughout much the night, even delivering an extra oomph whenever a song needed an emotional blast and a real soaring vocal.

That was on display for her turn with an acoustic guitar for early-career material "You Belong To Me," and "Fifteen," sharing with the audience how much she's enjoyed her decade-plus of opening her diary and pouring her emotions and romantic mishaps out in front of them.

Swift's past history of October even-year releases had many speculating that Saturday's show might feature new material as a way to build toward her next artistic move, but she stuck to her well-known catalog instead. The only exception came during her three-song turn behind a sparkling white grand piano when she delivered her first-ever live performance of "This Is What You Came For," the hit she helped pen for her ex beau Calvin Harris and Rihanna.

Now 10 years and a whole lot of well-publicized breakups into her career, Swift appeared to have not just moved on from those stumbles but taken full ownership of them, turning songs like "Blank Space" and "I Knew You Were Trouble" into anthems of experience from a woman proud to be living life fearlessly.

By the time the closing fireworks on the undeniable dance party of "Shake It Off" signaled the night's close 80 minutes later, Swift bid farewell as a smiling and thankful conquering hero. Saturday's show might have been her sole public concert for the entire year, but with a crowd that ranks as one of her largest ever, it showed no drop off or rust from a star determined to remain one of the biggest names in music for a long time to come.

Setlist:

"New Romantics"
"22"
"Blank Space"
"I Knew You Were Trouble"
"Style"
"You Belong To Me"
"Fifteen"
"Holy Ground"
"We Are Never Getting Back Together"
"Love Story"
"This Is What You Came For"
"Sparks Fly"
"Wildest Dreams"
"Out Of The Woods"
"Shake It Off"