August Slipped Away To a Moment in Time
Taylor Swift at SoFi, a Dad’s Perspective
Beam me up to the mothership, Taylor Swift, I am powerless to resist your spell! Tonight at SoFI our family got to witness what might be the most epic live music show we will ever see—the first night of her six performances in LA. Despite being well familiar with all the superlatives surrounding this historic billion dollar tour, when you hear 70,000 fans singing all the words so passionately, it sort of knocks you back—you feel the power, and you realize there’s something going on here beyond just pop music, a kind of rare connection between performer and audience. I keep asking myself, what is it that has such a hold on people?
Starting with the obvious, Taylor Swift gives a sense of empowerment to her mostly female audience. In a fraught age of gender and sexuality, she models what a strong, smart, self possessed and compassionate woman can be. During the show every time I looked over, Audrey and Sarah were singing the songs, channeling their junior high and high school years. As a dad I had this momentary heartbreaking thought of how these songs helped my daughters navigate the perilous days and nights of growing up.
August slipped away to a moment in time, cause it was never mine…
Back when I was living for the hope of it all, for the hope of it all, meet me behind the mall….
“Meet me behind the mall”: one simple lyric that unlocks the devastating heart of adolescence. Beyond the catchiness, the hooks and infectious melodies, her songwriting taps into universals, with an honesty, a vulnerability, a confessional quality that comes off as believable to one’s own experience. She's a true and sincere voice in a pop landscape full of swagger, pretense and corporate hype.
At one point she stopped between songs and explained her process, the way she writes about these thoughts and feelings she has, and then when people like the songs it’s a kind of validation for her, knowing other people share the same feelings. The sense of validation is obviously a two way thing.
So I am asking myself why would a 59 year old man be so taken with songs so full of adolescent drama and angst? I don't have a good answer for that other than to say the stuff just sort of gets under your skin. To use an overused word of the moment, the songs are relatable. I became a “Swiftie” after hearing the ballad “Coney Island,” her collaboration with Matt Berringer, the guy from the so called Sad Dad music group The National. There’s something about their duets, similar styles of emotional depth suppressed under the surface.
I think it was P.T. Barnam who coined the phrase “The greatest Show on Earth” to pimp his traveling circus of the early 20th century. There really is no more apt superlative for this event, the scale of it, the choreography and stagecraft, all of Taylor’s costumes, and the way she disappeared and appeared seamlessly through trap doors—a flawless production. And the plain fact of such a large catalog of hits amassed over the years. Add to this the way everyone dressed up special for the show, a part of the experience, girls and women of all ages in a kaleidoscope of sparkly outfits that channel their heroine and signal membership in the cult.
I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say you have to go back to the Beatles and Elvis to find performers who captivated the culture so completely. The greatest performers give everything they have on stage, pouring their hearts out for hours in a display of endurance and self sacrifice. I’m thinking of Springsteen’s legendary 4-hour shows in his prime, where the sweat-drenched Jersey dude would be staggering around at the end, nearly collapsing from physical and psychic exhaustion.
After three hours I was pretty exhausted just standing and watching it all, trying to process such a massive spectacle. When the music ended, we zigzagged through the throngs of people, up a series of escalators and out of the mega stadium. Hanging over the parking lot chaos was this sense that we had just witnessed something pretty remarkable. The evening ended with the seven of us crushing In-and-Out Burgers in the car before driving back to Venice Beach.
August 4, 2023