It's hard to believe that model-esque 22-year-old Taylor Swift was ever ostracised at school, but if it wasn't for those formative experiences in Pennsylvania, Swift may never have turned to songwriting. And it's clear from the often hysterical 12,000 fans at Vector Arena tonight that her songwriting is perhaps not only cherished, but also needed. Her lyrics reflect the secret diaries and grandest dreams of many a young female, and right from the lavish opening number Sparks Fly, she has the audience screaming in delight.
Sumptuous red curtains open to reveal perhaps the most elaborate staging Vector has seen for a pop show - gilded balconies and staircases, wind machines, aerial artists descending from the ceiling shooting sparks, a 10 piece band and a cast of dancers. And then Swift herself rises through the runway in a haze of smoke. But even though she may have the dream stage show, she's still a pretty endearing dork who clearly loves what she does, and loves her fans.
It's in the little things, like how they all know her favourite number is 13 (which is drawn on her hand each night), or that many of them come with lyrics of her songs written down their arms, that show just how involved Swift's fans are in her world, and she returns the favour by writing songs that are often confessional and deeply personal, and she's happy to share the stories behind them in between songs. She explains that Ours was written for a certain man she was in love with, when no one else thought it was a good idea, and that Last Kiss was written one night in a hotel room while she was reminiscing.
Both these songs are actually performed perched on a large tinfoil tree at the back of the stadium floor area roughly half way through the show, so those fans at the rear can get a little more intimate with her too.
This is after she's done half a lap of the arena, shaking hands with everyone in reach - she does the other half on the way back to the main stage.
No matter how much of a cheeseball she may be - thanking the crowd multiple times for coming, for knowing the lyrics, for screaming so loud ("you guys are like the crowd of my dreams") - she also seems genuinely appreciative of her fans, and makes a huge effort to please them.
The two large video screens to the left and right of the main stage allow the crowd to see Swift up close and personal for most of the show, each expression beamed across the arena, and when she smiles it's hard not to bask in her warmth.
This is when you're not distracted by the immense production that is the Speak Now show. It's hard to know where to look at times.
There's the energetic broadway musical type choreography in The Story Of Us, the elaborate wedding pantomime of Speak Now, the ballerinas who arrive for Enchanted, the aerial acrobats who elegantly bounce up and down attached to giant bells for Haunted, the sparkly snow that floats down as she sits at a white grand piano for Back To December.
It's every young girls fantasy. Plus four songs into the show, a tap dancer appears to entertain the audience while a lovely classic four-poster porch rises through the stage, and Swift appears in a sweet white country dress to perform Our Song from her self-titled debut, on banjo and 12-string.
That's when she's not swapping between five other guitars, or changing costume nine times (which she does with incredible rapidity).
Some of the set highlights come in the simpler moments that allow her voice and songwriting to be appreciated on their own, like Mine, and Ours. It's also wonderful to hear her getting just a little angry and sly on track like Dear John. There are times when the crowd carries the songs, their vocals as loud as anything Swift can produce, but when she belts out early hit You Belong With Me there's no denying her talent.
And when she ends the two hour plus show circling the stadium on a flying balcony, singing Love Story as shiny confetti rains down and fireworks explode on stage, it's pretty clear she's just made many dreams come true.
- Time Out