Taylor Swift will perform her first ever stadium show in Auckland tonight. Joanna Hunkin previewed the show in Sydney to get a taste of what's to come.
As giant fireballs shoot into the night sky, it's clear Taylor Swift means business. Most performers save flame throwing and pyrotechnics for their big finale – but not Taylor. Just two songs into the Reputation Tour show, she brings the heat – both literally and figuratively – as huge flames burst skyward above the towering stage set-up.
Opening with last year's chart hit ... Ready For It? Swift kicks off a high-octane show that never slows, as she works her way through a comprehensive set list, featuring 13 tracks from the Reputation album, along with her biggest hits.
Tonight will be the first time Swift has ever performed a stadium show in New Zealand – and she's put a lot of thought into the super-sized event.
As fans enter Mt Smart Stadium, they'll be greeted with a white electronic wristband, which will change colour throughout the night, making the audience part of the stage show.
This, Swift later explains, is so she can see each and every fan "move, dance and jump" throughout the night.
When Love Story rings out early in proceedings, a sea of soft pink lights bathe the crowd, echoing the sweet, simple time when Swift was still a teenager, making up songs about young love.
The show is divided into seven acts, with brief interludes in between allowing Swift and her team to change outfits and staging. Each act carries an impressive surprise - whether it's a giant inflatable snake (to accompany the Kanye-shade-throwing Look What You Made Me Do) or a silver skeletal cage that carries Swift over the top of the crowd, delivering her to a secondary stage in the middle of the stadium.
It's there she delivers the night's biggest banger, joined on stage by her opening guests – British singer Charlie XCX and NZ's own Georgia Nott from Broods – who help Swift Shake It Off with unbridled delight. It's a magical moment, followed by another standout, as Swift picks up her guitar to sing an acoustic version of 22 – one of her most beloved hits.
It's a rare moment of calm in the whirlwind show, which sees Swift accompanied by a talented squad of back-up singers, who dance as fiercely as they sing.
Tightly choreographed throughout, everything about this show is rehearsed and polished – including Swift's spoken interludes. It is, arguably, the only disappointment of the tour – the lack of spontaneity or willingness to abandon the script, even for a moment.
But with so many songs and show-stopping moments to get through, it's a small complaint that can be easily forgiven. Especially when Swift gives the audience her signature wink and launches into another crowd favourite.
Swift is open about the fact this is her first global stadium tour and she wanted to make it as special as possible for her fans. With custom-built 30m screens projecting every detail in close-up, she's certainly done her all to make sure nobody misses a moment.
If you're considering taking young ones to Taylor Swift, here's a few things to note before hitting "purchase".
Although Taylor Swift's music is absolutely family-friendly, her music appeals to a diverse bunch of people and the Swift Army is intense in its devotion. Be prepared to share the stadium with some colourful characters – many of whom intend to make the most of the night, celebrating with a few bevvies and shaking their tailfeathers.
The show is officially seated but no one will be sitting down, so little ones may struggle to get a decent look at the action.
Also bear in mind, Swift's set is a full two hours, following on from Broods (who will take the stage just after 8pm) and Charli XCX, whose set will start at about 7pm. Charli's music and stage persona is also a little more risque than Swift's.
In Sydney, Swift's set was delayed nearly an hour as a passing thunderstorm caused issues. Eventually, Swift took the stage in the pouring rain, before eventually wrapping up well past 11.30pm. That's a long time for anyone to stand in the pouring rain, let alone kids.
By the time you factor in traffic issues or a public transport commute, you'll be lucky to be home and in bed much before 1am. That's a late night for little ones and Sydney's ANZ Stadium was abuzz with the cries of over-tired kids who had lost the plot. You've been warned.
Public transport is free for all Taylor Swift ticket holders and we recommend you take advantage of this.
Due to Swift's young fanbase, a lot of concert-goers will be dropped off by parents and collected after the show. In Sydney, this led to gridlock, with all roads surrounding the stadium at a standstill for more than an hour. At best, it's a tedious waste of time. At worst, it's a mighty expensive Uber ride.
Special event buses will run from 4.30pm, picking fans up from the following stops:
• Albany Platform A (stop 4228)
• Constellation Platform A (stop 4222)
• Sunnynook Platform A (stop 3219)
• Smales Farm Platform A (stop 3360)
• Akoranga Platform A (stop 4065)
Buses will also run from the city to Mt Smart Stadium from 4.55pm, departing from the temporary bus stop on Quay St, between Commerce St and Gore St.
Who: Taylor Swift with support from Charli XCX and Broods
What: Reputation Stadium Tour
Where: Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
When: Gates open from 5pm tonight
Plus: Tickets from Ticketmaster