TAMPA — Taylor Swift might have the most powerful smile in show business.
Arguably the most popular pop star in America took the stage Saturday at Raymond James Stadium and had the sold-out crowd of 56,987 roaring to her opener “Welcome to New York,” but it wasn’t until she pulled off her sunglasses, froze, and gave a signature “Aw shucks. Really? You guys are cheering for me? Wow!” smile that the level of screaming became painful.
That’s Taylor Swift’s “1989” tour, a concert where every fan gets a bracelet that lights up to the beat so Swift “can see all of you” while she has a night she’ll “remember for the rest of my life.”
The flawless show, much like Swift’s whole public persona, was as much about how much fun she was having on stage as it was about the fan experience. And it worked, of course, because watching Swift have fun is fun.
Swift’s Halloween costume — Olaf from “Frozen” — was a clue to her second mystery guest of the night, Idina Menzel, who donned an Elsa the Snow Queen costume and performed “Let it Go” with her as a show-stopping duet (ironically, it was so hot and humid in Tampa that Swift’s sweat-moistened hair was hanging around her face in chunks).
Swift sang with her first guest too: Alessia Cara, who sang her hit “Here.”
But that came later. First there was “New Romantics,” “Blank Space” and an ominous, hard rock remix of “I Knew You Were Trouble” that was the riskiest move of the night, and it worked.
At one point she floated over the crowd on a rising catwalk as she got deep with an acoustic guitar on the country ballad “Fifteen.”
And forget Halloween; it was Taylor-ween at among the fans whose costumes were anything that showed love for Taylor Swift, mostly written in untold gallons of puffy paint on T-shirts and with cherry-red lipstick applied in Swift’s signature look.
More than six hours before Swift took the stage, an army of fans moved through the parking lots at RayJay in enough handcrafted Swift gear to fill a Michael’s store.
Cliques of pre-teen fans in cheerleader outfits with “T” emblazoned on the front, walked past 20-something guys and women in black shirts sequined with “1989” and mingled with moms and teen daughters in matching cowboy boots and shirts reading “Bad Blood” and “Wildest Dreams.”
Ronnie Ruiz and his 13-year-old daughter, Teah, drove from Lake Worth in matching angel costumes to be first in line at Gate D where they had been standing in direct sun since 2:30 p.m.
Wrapped in Christmas lights with a feathery puff attached to his head, with pink makeup hearts smearing down his cheeks, Teah looked up at her dad and said she had hoped he would wear a tutu as well.
“A father has got to draw the line somewhere,” Ruiz said, laughing. “We’re hoping this gets her to notice us and bring us backstage, but if not, it’s still worth it. Totally worth it”
They weren’t the only ones hoping to catch Swift’s eye in hopes of meeting her after the show. Among people holding cardboard Polaroid frames (a nod to the “1989” cover) were Tess Belanger and Brook Behrsin, both 21, from Stuart, who were dressed as Starbucks drinks complete with whipped cream on their heads.
“We’re Starbucks lovers from ‘Blank Space’,” Behrsin said, a nod to one of the great misheard lyrics of all time — “got a long list of ex lovers.”
Belanger said she has been a Taylor Swift fan for years, but she wasn’t open about it until “1989” came out.
“I think more and more people are seeing that her music should be taken seriously after this album. They’re finally vocalizing it. They’re not closet Swifties anymore,” she said. “I started out a closet Swiftie, but not anymore.”
Opener Vance Joy came out dressed for his environment, sporting a puffy shirt and pirate bandanna as he opened with “Wasting Time.”