Taylor Swift prints money at will. Combined revenue for the almost immediately sold-out “Eras Tour” and the film “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” released to theaters on Oct. 13, has already grossed over $123.5 million. There’s even speculation that “Eras” could save movie theaters still suffering from the writers’ strike and the aftermath of lockdowns.
This is all well and good, but it doesn’t appear to be Swift’s goal. For in watching “The Eras Tour” movie, the biggest takeaway is that one really should find a way to see her perform live. For all the magic of the big screen, it simply doesn’t do the production — and it was a production, replete with multiple scenery and wardrobe changes — justice.
However, though it’s 100 percent her movie, produced and distributed by Swift herself, which means it’s not exactly an objective presentation, the other noteworthy aspect — and the one that seems to motivate her more than the stacks of cash — is that Swift genuinely appears to love her fans as much as they love her. Even if she’s spinning with “The Eras Tour” movie, there is ample support that this love for her fans is real.
There was the show at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, several months ago in which Swift kept things going for three and a half hours despite a biblical amount of rain. There was the girl who missed a concert in 2018 after a severe accident left her in the burn unit. Swift visited her in the hospital.“I can’t wait to have you at a show,” she wrote the girl in a note — this year, she sent this young fan tickets to the “Eras” tour. Swift has donated money for illnesses, given permission for a play to use “Shake It Off,” taken selfies with fans, and even bought Chipotle for fans — along with a whole host of other things detailed in this list from 2015.
Surely the list of Taylor Swift’s good deeds has only grown since then, though that’s not something that gets highlighted in the “Eras” movie. Instead, we see Swift working the crowd and the cameras like an expert. We see her getting legitimately sweaty as she covers the huge and constantly changing stage. We see her throw down the gauntlet on her big, thumping dance tunes. We see her return to her roots with subdued acoustic numbers.
Mostly, though, we see her constantly praising the audience, inviting them into the moment with her rather than merely standing in front of them and going through the motions. And when it’s all over, after two hours and 45 minutes, we see her thank her band, her background vocalists, and her dancers. We see her give this enormous group a moment in the spotlight as they join her for a bow before the audience.
Apart from her final solo bow before bidding the crowd adieu, there is not a moment in which she seems to take any credit for herself. It’s all about everyone else there, and — with the way she works the cameras — the people who were not there but are now watching it in theaters.
So is “The Eras Tour” perfect? For those who only see it in a theater, the answer is no.
Beyond the simple truth that truly awe-inspiring live performances can only be fully experienced in real-time, the film displays some interesting choices in terms of cinematography. The cameras are almost constantly in motion, even during the softer songs, making it difficult for the viewer to truly imagine being a part of the live audience. Similarly, the editing jumps from shot to shot to shot with lightning speed, further disrupting the ability to immerse oneself in the moments captured on film.
While obviously an attempt to replicate the hugeness of the show, those choices diverge too far from what one would see in person. Also, at least in the theater where I saw it, the audio was not as clear as would be expected. Perhaps it was too much trouble for the venue to recalibrate its speaker system to suit a concert movie rather than a traditional one. Perhaps I am just too particular about such things. My daughters, who should know better given how I’ve raised them, didn’t even mention it after we left the theater.
As a concert film, though, it is masterful. It is something that aging Swifties can return to in their golden years when “shaking it off” might result in breaking a hip. It’s a movie that can bring in new fans — ones who haven’t even been born yet. It’s a reminder that, while Swift can rankle some of my fellow Gen Xers — and not without cause — music is something that unites us across generations.
Is it high art? No, it’s Taylor Swift.
But with “The Eras Tour,” it’s a Taylor Swift who is potentially building a legacy and a thread of continuity that will inspire future listeners not to reflexively write off the music of the past as old and passé. Instead, it may just invite them to dive deep into the artistic well that musicians throughout the ages have filled and refilled — discovering the moments that bring us together.