the best day with you
Last night with Taylor Swift: Fearless queen of pop electrifies NRG in historic Houston tour stop finale
The energy in NRG Stadium — or as it's been known officially, NRG Stadium (Taylor's Version) — was a palpable mix of tiptoed anticipation (seemingly every person was on their feet) bordering on frenzy on Sunday, April 23. And why not, as it was the final show of Taylor Swift's wildly popular, three-night Eras Tour/"Taylor Swift The Eras Tour Weekend" stop in Houston.
After an absolutely fearless opening night (read our review here) on Friday and another sellout Saturday, mistress of ceremonies Swift was just as vivacious and high-energy as previous shows as she welcomed the shrieking, sellout mass. Even more impressive than two back-to-back, leave-it-all-on-the-stage show was the fact that Swift was playing hurt. The megastar had a mishap and cut her hand during her Saturday show — something making playing piano and guitar difficult.
"I'm totally fine and it was my fault completely," she updated her concerned fans on social media, "tripped on my dress hem and fell in the dark backstage while running to a quick change - braced my fall with my palm. It was all very Mercury in retrograde coded. Don’t worry about me I’m gooooood 😘"
But the show must go on. Descending down on a massive platform, she announced, "Houston, Texas, you are about to cross the very first bridge of the evening. I'm interested to know if you're ready to scream this as loudly as I am. Ready, set, go!"
Packed to the rafters, NRG was overflowing with Swifties of every age. Dressing for her Eras Tour is a thing (hence our fashion guide before her show), and this night, the overwhelming trend was sparkle and sequins. Between the literally thousands of Swift-inspired body suits and dresses, the neighboring Astrodome could probably be filled with the amount of sequins in NRG.
Can't "Calm Down"
Swift shimmered in her gold dress. Photo by Steven Devadanam
And with that, it was on. She masterfully owned the expansive stage, strutting to and punctuating every line of "Cruel Summer" while fans sang back to her. After the song, Swift, a born natural for onscreen performing, made full use of NRG's massive screen, which is around the size of an average office building. (Fans who caught U2's Joshua Tree tour will remember it well.)
Using just the tiniest eye twitch and eyelash bat, Swift elicited a "whatcha got?" from the rabid fans as she slowly turned to face every corner of the stadium. The result was a Swift-sparked audience wave — of which section could scream loudest. The roar possibly set off some car alarms outside, it was that deafening, when she executed a Lizzo-tastic hair toss for full "yaaas queen" vibes.
"Houston, Texas," she said in response, fanning herself off from the crowd's white-hot heat, adorably adding that the moment made her feel "really powerful" with a bicep flex and bicep kiss.
"You're making me feel like I'm the first artist to ever play three shows in this beautiful stadium," she said with a cheeky shrug that didn’t have even the slightest hint of humblebrag to it — just facts. Donning a sparkly double-breasted jacket, she teased her next song from the album Lover with, "I guess what I'm trying to say is Houston, you're making me feel like I'm 'The Man!'"
Impossibly bouncy and high-energy, Swift charmingly mugged with her band and stood arm-in-arm with her backup singers and dancers, with whom she has clearly genuine rapport and affection — the love was obvious from the floor.
High-production video sequences marked each costume and era change. After a killer set of Lover and Fearless eras, Swift emerged as a bewitching, Celtic-looking goddess in "Willow," floating in a glowing, emerald velvety cape while her backup dancers carried glowing orange orbs, calling to mind faeries in the forest.
Later, she flexed her capable piano skills as she sat deep downstage for an intimate version of "Marjorie." She shared that her grandmother Marjorie was the family member she most "takes after" — not surprising as Marjorie was an opera singer who lived in Houston. Noting that Marjorie's voice is on the song, Swift revealed that playing the ode to her dear grandmother in her home city made her "feel all kinds of feelings.
It was mutual, as many were wiping away tears during the song. The more than 60,000 in attendance were silent as Swift paid tribute to her grandmother, letting every note echo through NRG. Notably Swift's mother Andrea grew up in Houston as well, attending Memorial High School and graduating from University of Houston. Swift's "Lavender Haze" inspired a tribute to Andrea from City Hall; it was lit up in lavender each night of her shows.
So Ready for It
The megastar goofed around with her dancers. Photo by Steven Devadanam
Moving into another slow, thoughtful track, "Champagne Problems," Swift moved to back to the jams. Sporting a slinky fit, Swift jumped into her Reputation era with the throbbing, fan favorite "Ready for it," in front of a sultry video starring snakes and sexy body imagery.
Channeling her sensual persona, Swift seductively tossed her hair and made use of breathy vocals, pouty lips, and hip thrusts that were come-hither without being lewd. She clearly knows her audience — and knows that for every woman singing the female-empowered, "they want this" lyrics, there are kids at the show, too.
She was full on rock goddess in "Don't Blame Me," engulfed in smoke and rising in an elevated stage, even rocking a power pose. A captivating stage sequence saw her backup singers become trapped, boxed-up characters in "Look What You Made Me Do."
After the Reputation set, she emerged in a dramatic ball gown — enchanting, really — for the dreamy "Enchanted."
Another transition featured her dancer performing with a red box that played Swift’s voice when she opened it, a perfect segue to the Red era.
Before jumping into one of her most beloved and celebrated anthems, she threw on a "Never Ever Getting Back Together" T-shirt over her dress in a visual fashion tease to arguably her most famous breakup song. As she bellowed the chorus, women all across the stadium — regardless of relationship status — belted out the lyrics back to her, clearly putting their dates on notice.
Real talk in folklore
“Here we are in the folklore era," she announced, ready to strum her acoustic guitar. She called the Era a "state of mind" and "very diaristic" referring to the album she created during the pandemic and how COVID isolation informed its creation. (It was one of a few pandemic references she made during the show, a memorable mention was sharing with the audience that she wasn’t sure if and when live performing would return in the midst of worldwide shutdowns.)
Elaborate set work and dramatic period costumes marked "Last American Dynasty," almost channeling a historical romance movie. She ran across the stage and dramatically knelt in her flowing gown in "August," and the kneeling for max effect continued for "My Tears Ricochet" as a single tear dan down her face onscreen.
Her hair glowing in the stage lights and her body swaying in sync with her flowing dress, it was hard not to see a young "Gypsy"-era Stevie Nicks in "Tears Ricochet"; Swift's awareness of the rock music queen was a knowing nod rather than a tone-deaf steal that so many in her generation "borrow" on stage.
Partying like it's 1989
As her impressive band masterfully wove interludes with the onscreen video transitions, Swift emerged in sparkling emerald bikini top and skirt for her 1989 era set. In a night of danceable numbers, "Shake it Off" was — obvi — easily one of the most danceable. Even our floor security guard busted out some mad moves next to us.
Naturally the tens of thousands at NRG were primarily adult women, teens, and kids, but when Swift pointed to her right for the "fella over there with the really good hair" during the cheerleader-channeling "Shake It Off" breakdown, every dude in her vicinity clamored for her attention.
"Bad Blood was another massive singalong jam, with women in the audience echoing the lines back to her — a clear sign that many in the audience had been wronged or through a breakup, but like Swift, were all NBD and so over it.
Swift's second surprise song was "Cold As You" from her 2006 debut album. Photo by Steven Devadanam
As she has with all her shows, Swift dropped two surprise tracks on Sunday night. The first was "Begin Again" from Red, a tale of picking, dusting off, and moving on with new dating after a toxic relationship.
Once again sitting at her piano, Swift tickled the ivories and while superhuman in her performance, managed to be human. "Sometimes I forget what key we're in," she admitted to her fans, "but I just remembered." Again , her trademark self-effacing was refreshingly authentic: even megastars can mess up.
A quick mention of her 2006 debut album sparked excited shrieks and as the crowd erupted at the reference at the LP that's nearly 20 years old. She seamlessly moved into "Cold As You," the tale of an emotionally unavailable guy. Something about a 33-year-old harking back to her teens was reflectively honest.
(Literal) deep dive into Midnights
At the end of the piano-only "Cold As You," Swift slowly walked across the catwalk, waved goodbye to her adoring Swifties, and literally dove into the stage. Her green silhouette popped up on the video screen, showing her swimming back to the main stage.
She emerged climbing a ladder into a big, puffy cloud wearing a purple sequin dress and purple fur coat for her Midnights era. Rising on the elevated dais, she moved into the deep, throbbing "Lavender Haze" against an equally lavender screen, clouds, and backdrop.
The shimmering sequin fits she wore were fitting tunes like "Vigilante Shit" and another singalong fave, "Karma." Her dramatic end of show seemed too soon despite a three-hours run. As she thanked her beloved Swifties and waved, NRG rumbled amid shrieks, whoops, and cries of "don't go!" and "one more!" In a true journey of her nearly 20-year eras, the moment felt like a bittersweet goodbye with a bestie after the best vacay ever.
The show in the show
Major kudos to Swift's genius production team, who made masterful use of the gigantic screen and the programmable wristbands, which brilliantly lit up in a picture-perfect color match for each song, washing the stadium in various lights and creating literal constellations of adoring fans.
NRG's screen, about the height of an mid-size office tower, was a symbolic showcase for Swift: It was hard to tell which was more larger than life — the enormous video version, or the flawless Swift herself, who brought her signature “can’t stop won’t stop” for a legit three hours.
Who needs "The Man?"
It shouldn't be lost on anyone that Swift penned the real-talk track, "The Man." Her pointed single points out gender disparity that even a female juggernaut like she faces. She knows as well as anyone that pop music has always allowed male artists to reinvent themselves — for better (David Bowie) and sometimes worse (the end-days Elvis and Michael Jackson).
Like only a very select few legendary American music icons (Jackson, for example), Swift has essentially grown up right before our eyes. Though her life is seemingly 100 percent goals, how may women would actually want their awkward life fails, clunky relationship woes — even backpack choices — trending on social? Probably not many. But, Swift has spun gold from it all.
Over two decades, Swift's many identities, personas, and "eras," have been tirelessly scrutinized by fans, critics, and entertainment media. Is she a bubble gum-popping girl next door? An unsure teen navigating the mean girls and cold guys? A hum-along, strumming singer-songwriter? Sexy siren and sultry chanteuse? A straight up, completely actualized young woman and pop icon?
Swift sure as hell made the case that she's all those — and more — in three sellout shows at NRG.
Her status as America's most relatable pop megastar is now clearly cemented and her future is shining brighter than the sequins her fans wore to her show.
To quote a couple of her singles, karma has been good to Swift, and we can't wait to see what she has planned for her own endgame.
Setlist (by each era)
Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince
You Need to Calm Down
You Belong With Me
‘tis the damn season
...Ready for it?
Don’t Blame Me
Look What You Made Me Do
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
I Knew You Were Trouble
All Too Well
the last great American dynasty
my tears ricochet
Shake It Off
Cold Like You