Taylor Swift warmly embraced her Nashville roots during the Music City stop of her Reputation Tour. Performing at Nissan Stadium, the pop superstar recalled how she and her mother attended CMA Music Festival at the venue as everyday fans soon after moving to Nashville from Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. In 2011, she’d play a typically abbreviated CMA Fest set on the big stage, but never headlined the stadium until Saturday night, bringing her spectacular production, including a massive video wall, two satellite stages and numerous inflatable snakes (the avatar of the tour), into the home of the Tennessee Titans.
Swift was thrilled to be home, talking at length about how the city has changed and using the growth of Nashville as her own visual metric for the passage of time, a theme she touched on often throughout the evening. She’s a wildly different artist from the one who released her self-titled debut at 16, having evolved into a confident, almost defiant, entertainer. Gone are the parodied aw-shucks reactions, replaced by the undeniable attitude of “I’ve been here before and this is how it’s done.”
That unflappability came into focus during the show’s surprise moment, a collaboration on Swift’s 2006 debut single “Tim McGraw” with guests Faith Hill and McGraw himself. Beginning the song solo at a piano, Swift welcomed Hill, who, upon appearing from beneath the stage, seemed to lose her place in the lyrics. Swift stepped in, calmly righting the ship, before introducing McGraw for a decidedly meta moment with all three singing the name-checking chorus.
Earlier in the night, on one of the B-stages, Swift nodded to her country music ties with the tour debut of “Better Man,” the ballad she wrote for country vocal group Little Big Town. Strumming her guitar beneath a bright full moon and surrounded by the blinking interactive bracelets worn by fans, the inclusive sing-along fulfilled Swift’s intention of connecting with all corners of the stadium.
It was the tracks off Swift’s latest album, last year’s Reputation, that ultimately made up the bulk of the setlist. Show opener “…Ready for It?” was appropriately muscular and outsized, “Delicate” found Swift singing from a basket above the crowd, and “Getaway Car” transported fans into the wilds of the American west via immense images of the desert.
The closing “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” was the stunner, however, as Swift and her army of dancers cavorted in front of an eerily real-life image of an ornate building, its façade exploding behind them as fireworks and flames shot overhead. It was Swift blowing up her reputation, yes, but still preserving her place in the town that helped build her up.