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The 1989 World Tour

2015

“The 1989 World Tour” was Taylor’s fourth concert tour, in support of her fifth studio album, 1989 (2014). It began on May 5, 2015, in Tokyo, and concluded on December 12, 2015 in Melbourne, the day before Taylor’s 26th birthday. “The 1989 World Tour” was the highest grossing tour in the world in 2015, mobilizing 2’278’647 fans and generating $250’733’097 in revenue.
Taylor is one of the most famous musicians in the world, and the year 2015 was the biggest moment of her career. “The 1989 World Tour” was her parade across planet earth, declaring it as her own, celebrating life and all the joys that comes with it, and inviting you along for the ride. Taylor was, on every single level, the pinnacle of American Culture as it existed in the 2010s. “The 1989 World Tour” was the perfect pop spectacle, created by the most influential person in the world.
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Background and Development

The tour was announced via Taylor’s Twitter on November 3, 2014. It was also revealed that Vance Joy would be joining her on tour, and that tickets would go sale on for North American fans on November 14. The tour’s European stops, as well as two shows in Japan were later announced in November 2014, followed by the Oceania dates in December 2014. Additional dates for Singapore and Shanghai were announced in June 2015 with a third and final Melbourne show announced in July 2015. In an interview with Time Magazine, Taylor said that the setlist would be predominantly songs from 1989:

«I have so many things I've been dreaming up for this. If you look at the makeup of my previous music, as far as production elements go, there are a lot of live drums, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and live bass. And if you look at the landscape of 1989, it's mostly synths and automated drums and these kind of big epic synth pad sounds, and key bass, and layered vocals. I have a very big band, there are 14 of us, so what you’re going to end up with is more of a live feel in that it's going to be filled in and more dramatic with more layers to it, but never to the point where it's going to feel noisy or overcrowded.»

Taylor Swift

Taylor also acknowledged the challenge of playing to stadiums, stating that “the challenge with a stadium show is making those people in the very top row feel like they got an intimate, personal experience.” The following month in an interview with KIIS-FM, she revealed that she knew what the stage would look like, as well as knowing that “all the fans seem to be saying that they really don’t want any song [from 1989] left off the setlist”.

The tour took seven months to plan before three months of music rehearsals, four weeks of stage rehearsals and ten days of two-a-days dress rehearsals. It traveled with 26 semi-trailer trucks and 11 buses carrying 146 people from city to city. Additionally, about 125-150 people were hired in each city to help with the load in and stage setup. The entire load in and stage setup process took between 6 and 8 hours for arenas, with stadiums requiring an additional day. Many of the traveling crew members had worked on Taylor’s tours since the Fearless era. Taylor chose two designs for the trucks’ vinyl wrap; 13 carried one design and 13 had the other.

Taylor Swift on the The 1989 World Tour (2015)
Taylor Swift on the The 1989 World Tour (2015)

The Show

When you walked into “The 1989 World Tour,” everyone was immediately given a glowing wristband. “Here’s a gift from Taylor,” the guest services worker said. A look around the crowd further revealed that this was not your average concert. Almost every audience member was dressed up in an elaborate costume with an oversized, light-up poster to match. Fans were dressed as cats, cheerleaders and various characters from Taylor’s music videos.

The concert opened with “Welcome To New York,” and tens of thousands light-up bracelets turned on, perfectly in sync with the song, and Taylor made it known that she was in the building. It was a combination of a cinematic moment and a trip to outer space. The show continued with a beautifully executed 1989 bonus track, “New Romantics”. It upped the ante on neon lights, further illuminating the point that Taylor wasn’t in Nashville anymore. The massive hit “Blank Space” followed. During the bridge, Taylor took out a golf club and hit it against a metal pole in rhythm on the stage’s runway. This effect, and her voice singing the bridge, were recorded and repeated on top of each other. Then, she used that recording to harmonize with herself while she shouted out the city the concert was being held in. It not only entertained the audience, but added a great effect to the song.

After performing “I Wish You Would“, “How You Get the Girl” featured Taylor and her dancers in lit-up outfits, performing with umbrellas in otherwise darkness – until the crowd turned into a giant sea of blue for the last chorus. In contrast, “I Know Places” received a uniquely provocative hard-rock reading, with the leggy Taylor in thigh-high black boots and garters. The song’s intense lyrics and production were accompanied by a performance of Taylor being chased by the masked dancers through multiple mobile doors. After the song ended, Taylor sometimes performed performed “All You Had to Do Was Stay“, which was followed by either “You Are in Love,” “Wonderland” or a customized number that she performed differently at several shows. Then Taylor introduced “Clean” by sharing lessons she had learnt in her personal life with her audiences.

All the while, it was impressive how little Taylor relied on earlier material. There were only a few moments in the show where she took a trip back down memory lane. The fourth song in the set was a powerful rendition of “I Knew You Were Trouble.” from her 2012 album, RED. She also performed a piano-synth rendition of her classic “Love Story”. Performing solo on the catwalk – which was revealed to actually be a giant crane that raised her 20 to 30 feet into the air, mimicking a rotating seesaw – Taylor demonstrated that she could still belt it out on her own, with just a guitar. However, the most effective track performed from the pre-1989 era was the rock version of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”. Taylor, armed with an electric guitar, standing front and center in the middle of the stadium, could have probably given any modern “rock” act of the last year a run for their money with this performance.

The final part of the show sped up with another recent hit, “Style.” Each night of the tour, Taylor invited new surprise guests to walk the stage runway with her while the hit single played. The celebrity appearances included everyone from Julia Roberts, to her friends Martha Hunt, Gigi Hadid and Lily Aldrige, and even Kobe Bryant. Afterwards, we fans finally got to see Taylor’s backup singers (the Starlights) up close as they got to come down the catwalk where they performed the pop ballad “This Love” together. For the performance of “Bad Blood“, Taylor dressed in a top-to-toe black leather suit.

One more highlight of the show came when Taylor rose from the center of the stage playing a sparkling grand piano. She began with the 2010 power ballad “Enchanted,” segued into “Wildest Dreams” and finished by blending the two songs to create a stunning rendition. In “Out of the Woods,” the penultimate performance, giant paper airplanes were circling above Taylor, as she sang her heart out about being in a snow mobile accident with Harry Styles.

The show closed with the energetic performance of “Shake It Off,” during which Taylor and her dancers danced on a spinning platform while fireworks went off. The stadium filled with confetti and cheers as the fan’s bracelets twinkled blue, green and purple, bringing an end to one of the most spectacular concerts of the decade.

The Clean Speech

At times, it was hard to even call the “The 1989 World Tour” a concert. It became more like a self-help conference, or even a full on religious experience. Before Taylor performed “Clean,” she told the audience to be comfortable with who they are, how important it is to have friends and that she felt all 50,000 of the audience members were her friends. She also talked about overcoming insecurities and negative self-talk and coming to terms with your mistakes. There weren’t many celebrities with her profile and influence telling her fans that they are not somebody else’s opinion of them. “You are not the opinion of someone who doesn’t know you,” Taylor told the crowd. “You are not in any way damaged goods if you’ve made mistakes in your life and you are not going nowhere just because you haven’t figured out exactly where you want to go yet.” Pop stars don’t have to be good role models, but Taylor took her responsibilities seriously.

Critical Reception

“The 1989 World Tour” was met with universal acclaim; praise centered on the elaborate stage production and Taylor’s stage presence. Vice‘s Eric Sundermann appreciated her ability to connect with her audiences, saying: “She has built a career on making music that’s suited for the fabric of our lives, so it makes sense that her show is engineered to be the best night of your life.” Jon Caramanica, writing for The New York Times, acknowledged Taylor’s comfortable performance onstage. Rolling Stone critic Rob Sheffield appreciated the reworked versions of Taylor’s older songs, and felt that she was pushing for an even more spectacular show than her much-praised previous “RED Tour” (2013–14), writing: “Taking the easy way would have been 100 percent good enough. It just wasn’t what she wanted to do. Instead, she wanted to push a little harder and make a gloriously epic pop mess like this.” In a similarly enthusiastic review, Kevin Coffrey from the Omaha World-Herald observed how the stage production complemented the songs: “Her show is on a level unlike anything I’ve ever seen.” In 2017, Rolling Stone included  “The 1989 World Tour” in their list of the “50 Greatest Concerts of the Last 50 Years”.

“The 1989 World Tour” was also nominated for several awards, winning “Best US Act” at the 2015 MTV Europe Music Awards, as well as “Tour of the Year” at the 2016 Pollstar Awards and “Best Tour” at the 2016 iHeartRadio Music Awards.

Box Office

After concluding in Melbourne, “The 1989 World Tour” grossed over $250 million and became the world’s highest-grossing tour in 2015, as reported by Pollstar. It was also the highest-grossing North American tour of 2015. Specially, “The 1989 World Tour” grossed over $199.4 million in North America alone, breaking the previous all-time high of $162 million set by the Rolling Stones in 2005. Overall, the tour broke a string of attendance and grossing records, including the record for most sold-out shows by an artist in Staples Center history (16 shows across Taylor’s career), commemorated in a banner presented to her by Kobe Bryant.

Concert Film

Signs were displayed at the sold out Sydney concert on November 28, 2015 at ANZ Stadium which said, “Today’s events are being recorded and filmed for global streaming, and may also form part of a television program, for commercial and promotional purposes.” Although there was no further information about what the filming was for at the time, there was speculation that it would for a DVD of “The 1989 World Tour,” to be released once the tour concluded its run in Melbourne in December 2015. Later speculation involved an Apple Music video launch, which was proved to be correct. (Not so) Coincidentally, “All You Had To Do Was Stay” and “This Love” were added back into the show after having been left off the set list for several months. This made the Sydney setlist identical to that of Tokyo when the tour premiered.

On December 13, 2015 (Taylor’s 26th birthday), she announced she had partnered with Apple Music to release a concert film entitled The 1989 World Tour Live on December 20. Filmed in front of 75’980 fans during her stop at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on November 28, it shows the entire two-hour performance and never-before seen footage from backstage and from rehearsals with some of the musical and surprise guests from previous shows.

General Information
Associated Album
Start Date May 5, 2015
End Date
Locations
Asia
Europe
North America
Oceania
Legs 6
No. of Shows 85
Box Office
$258.7 million
Opening Acts
Vance Joy
HAIM
Shawn Mendes
James Bay
Ellie Goulding
Rae Morris
John Newman
Tour Poster
1989 World Tour Trailer
Tour Rehearsals
1989 World Tour Crew
Setlist
1989 Era

1989 Era

1989 Album

1989 Songs

1989 World Tour Live