Taylor Swift at the Pepsi Center, 6/2/13

Categories: Concert Reviews

Eric Gruneisen. Slide show: Taylor Swift and fans at the Pepsi Center

Taylor Swift knows what people say about her. She's heard it all -- the rumors, the criticism, the constant derision. She knows, as she acknowledged a few times during her performance at the Pepsi Center last night, but she doesn't care. Why should she? Coming off the major success of her latest album, she no longer has anything to prove. To anyone. And the Red Tour is a celebration of that new Taylor: acutely self-aware, resolute, strong and sexy. This is Taylor 2.0, and she is one helluva force to be reckoned with.

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It took less than thirteen seconds into an explosive performance of "State of Grace" -- forever the perfect show-opener, with atmospheric guitar riffs and drum hits not out of place on a U2 album -- to see that and understand why the Pepsi Center had sold out so quickly for the Red Tour.

Swift was here to deliver the show of all shows, her confidence on blast and her swagger stretching longer than her model-perfect legs as they marched in perfect time with the chugging beat. This woman was here to take us on a Technicolor journey through her diary, complete with confetti and emphatic pyrotechnics. Here we go.

Eric Gruneisen. Slide show: Taylor Swift and fans at the Pepsi Center

During "State of Grace" Swift worked the crowd in only a way she could: graceful hand gestures that would make an envious Vanna White consider changing her name to Vanna Green; darting eyes, decorated by cat-eye makeup, that went from the left side of the arena to the right, cuing the corresponding seats to cheer at their every turn; and a pitch-perfect delivery of an otherwise technically difficult song to sing. Impressively, Swift's voice did all of the heavy lifting, as her four backing vocalists were assigned just to the "oh, oh, oh's."

Swift didn't miss a beat. Hitting with a one-two punch that couldn't have been better executed, Swift followed up with "Holy Ground" -- nine tracks removed from "State of Grace" on the album tracklist, but the perfect sister song in every way. Together these two songs, including "Holy Ground's" drum break -- I've never seen a singer beat a drum with as much ferocity as Taylor did! -- made it clear Swift deserves to be where she's at right now.

Eric Gruneisen. Slide show: Taylor Swift and fans at the Pepsi Center

Swift worked her crowd like a rock star. Song segments were divided by costuming changes, as Swift went from more casualwear to what looked to be her take on a Victorian era dress to the bandleader costume she donned for the 2013 Grammys. There wasn't a particular tie-in between song segments and costumes -- or the staging, for that matter -- except for the surprise '60s-style revamp of "You Belong With Me."

Swift wore a red sequined dress and matching gloves up to her elbows as she and her backing vocalists offered up their best sh-bops to a crowd initially skeptical to embrace the reimagined (more interesting) version. "You Belong With Me" worked because it was different, and as we had seen so far in the show, a different Taylor is a great Taylor.

Swift's bare rendition of "Enchanted" was also a wonderful surprise. Alone, seated on the stage extension that reached to the back of the Pepsi Center, it was Taylor and her guitar (no teardrops), and it was impressive the way she strummed so effortlessly. The same could also be said for her performance on the piano later, for "All Too Well," at which point, her stream of emotional consciousness was palpable, as if teardrops were ready to decorate the keys instead.

Eric Gruneisen. Slide show: Taylor Swift and fans at the Pepsi Center

"Red" was a lesson in what Taylor Swift 2.0 sounded like with her own guitar amp plugged in, while "I Knew You Were Trouble" showed us what Swift was like with even more of a dubstep breakdown than what you hear on the radio. (It felt a little incomplete without the goat accompaniment, though).

The song "22" was a lesson in Dr. Luke-ensian radio pop, with Swift clearly feeling young and carefree and, for the briefest moment during the entire show, going out of her head a bit and acting her age. It wasn't a change of pace, per se -- since Swift's setlist was as varied as it gets for a crossover pop star with a back catalogue like hers -- but it was a break from expectation. The "22" choreography was also a nice break from the Vanna White-style gesticulations that had grown stale up to this point.

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David Kotzebue
David Kotzebue

America's sweetheart. It's disgusting that some ppl can't just applaud her success and talent & feel they have to bring her down.

Shannon Fender
Shannon Fender

Taylor Swift was in Denver last night? Imagine how much I don't care.

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