Pop star plays to sold-out crowd Saturday night
Confetti poured from the rafters — red, tissue paper hearts stuck to flashing tiaras and settled on the brim of cowboy hats. Little girls twirled in pink tutus and scurried to the arena steps to collect the fallen keepsakes.
Taylor Swift, who brought her “Red” tour to Columbia Saturday night, sang “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” from a flying stage, dressed in a shimmering ringmaster uniform.
It was her closing number of the night, but there were no British-accented jabs at ex-boyfriends or breaks for thinly-veiled snark. There was an arena full of 12,000 fans, mostly elementary-aged girls dressed like their blonde-haired, blue-eyed idol, looking up at a moment of magic.
The confetti started falling and the crowd looked up, even the dragged-along dads smiling at the scene.
The whole evening had that effect — even the most reluctant attendees found something to enjoy. Dads were caught singing, “Romeo, save me, I’ve been feeling so alone,” and moms had a lot of questions about the talented, disheveled ginger who opened the show.
Ed Sheeran, who teamed up with Swift for “Everything Has Changed” on “Red,” sang a few songs from his debut album “ ” and “Be My Husband” by jazz’s Nina Simone.
“I’m in a fantastic mood — I just had a big plate of lasagna,” Sheeran said after a 10-minute “Give Me Love.”
He clapped his fist against the side of his guitar, stomped his feet against amps and peddles and clenched the mic for a few well-placed raps. He didn’t have a band, it was just Sheeran with a tool that, he explained, created a loop of percussion throughout the set.
During his more popular songs, “Drunk” and “The A Team” — the first self-explanatory and the second about a drug-addicted prostitute — the same girls in Swift’s pajamas from the “We Are Never” music video and light-up stars that read “Don’t you dream impossible things” sang every word.
The crowd adored him, especially as he reclaimed the stage during Swift’s set for “Everything Has Changed,” but there was a moment of confusion in his opening that we can only hope was later explained. Two orange paw prints, which Sheeran has claimed as a kind of emblem, took the monitors during “Lego House.”
The audience joined in a collective, long-lasting boo. Carolina pride runs deep at Colonial Life Arena.
In between Sheeran’s and Swift’s sets, a middle-aged woman with blonde hair and a familiar face walked along the side of the floor seats. It only took a minute for the crowd to realize it was Swift’s mom, Andrea. She made a few appearances in the section, taking pictures with die-hards in homemade outfits.
Swift’s first song was “State of Grace.” The starlet wore a white lace top, ruby red sequined shoes and black hot pants that in no way met the finger-tip rule. She continued with “Holy Ground” then “Red,” after she explained the inspiration behind her music.
“I have a lot of feelings, actually,” Swift said.
Swift donned a letter jacket, a black-and-white striped top and red skinny jeans for a high school-themed “22.” She sat atop the shoulders of a few of her dancers and circled one side of the floor seats on her way to a stage closer to the back of the arena.
Swift, sitting on a single red stool, switched to a 12-string guitar, the kind of guitar she learned on, she said. A standard guitar has six strings, and “6 times 2 equals 12,” Swift said.
She sang “Sparks Fly,” one of a few non-”Red” songs she sang during the night. “Mean,” “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” also made the list.
After Swift made it back to the mainstage, things got heavy. The stage was stripped down, with a warm red piano sitting at the top of a flight of stairs. Swift wore a black, lace-accented gown and spoke about the song-writing process.
“The ultimate goal is to say how you feel and to say it exactly how you feel it,” she said.
She went on to talk about the difficult, complicated experiences in life.
A dad in section 105 offered his support to the love-struck 23-year-old: “You’re right, Taylor.”
His elementary-aged son quickly quipped back: “Shut up, Dad.”
Her speech was a set-up for the most emotional ballad on Swift’s “Red.” She said it was one where she just recounted her experience, from beginning to end — presumably with her ex-love Jake Gyllenhaal.
It all wrapped back around to the circus: Swift as the ringmaster, with the other acts swirling and twirling around her. She walked to the end of a long, tightrope-style stage and scanned over the top of the grand pit.
She stretched her hand over the furthest rail, with a commanding, but still bewildered, smile.
The confetti fell and the crowd roared on.