Downtown was flooded with cheerleaders Saturday evening as roughly 45,000 Taylor Swift fans flocked to BC Place to catch the Vancouver leg of her 1989 Tour.
The cheerleader is the perfect symbol for the 25-year-old country turned pop star who is as well known for her enthusiasm as she is for her commanding stage presence. She's not the kind of popstar who wallows, preferring instead to turn heartbreak and hardship into infectious pop anthems with just enough repetition to stick in the brain of even the most casual listener.
Rather than the hint of danger pop stars like Justin Bieber have tried to cultivate, the heart of Swift's carefully constructed public persona is the contradiction between refinement and that enthusiastic kid who shows a bit of an overbite when she smiles. Even down to the videos that came before the show Saturday night, the heart of Swift's image seems to be the beautiful popular girl who is a nerd at heart.
This double persona allows her to construct an intimacy with an audience that seems to be very much in the same place.
But how does that intimacy translate to a stadium show that takes 10 busses to set up and attracts a crowd of 50,000? Pretty well, as it happens.
Surrounded by a troupe of good looking male dancers, she started the evening on a theatrical note with Welcome to New York before sliding into the new wave tinged New Romantics.
The light from the open roof of BC Place worked against the light show early on. But that worked itself out around the third song--a massive re orchestrated I Knew You Were Trouble that got just a little Magic Mike (in the best way possible), though it stayed on the safe side of PG. Swift is herself not a particularly strong dancer, but that awkwardness is part of what makes her presence so endearing.
Pop stars often bring their personal narrative on stage, but Swift takes it to another level. Amidst theatrical pop set pieces, things got personal with an interviews with her best girlfriends who happen to be wildly famous people like Lena Dunham and model Jaime King and rock band Haim.
Not only does her move to New York provide the narrative thread for the show, but over and over she addressed the audience as if they were old friends just catching up after a two year absence.
"We live in different parts of the world, but with Twitter and Instagram I can keep up with you... ," she told the massive crowd. "The things that make me feel the most connected to you are when you just talk about what's going on in your life."
Then she laid down some relationship advice and everyone loved it. That's just the kind of friendship she has with her fans.
The trick, of course, was to work her older stuff into her newest narrative. This meant bringing a gothy 80s keyboard into Love Story from her first album, Fearless (2009).
Throughout the evening, she was hinting at a surprise which made the stage near the end. Contrary to expectations that she might bring back her friends Tegan and Sara, in the end, Norwegian hip hop duo Nico and Vinz appeared, joining Swift for a very bouncy rendition of their 2013 single Am I Wrong? off their album Envy.
Though the show was not short in spectacle, the sound had some rough stops, particularly in Out of the Woods. But Swift made up for it with the explosive finale of Shake it Off, appearing not as a cheerleader after all, but in a green faux-grass skirt and matching halter, proving that you don't need a uniform to spread cheer.