Burning RED: Taylor Swift Visits Detroit

6:00 AM

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Few things are stranger than seeing the Motor City overrun by teenage girls, all clad in red and black, singing pop songs at the top of their lungs. Except, maybe, typically-vacant Detroit intersections crammed with soccer mom SUV's, windows rolled down to blare ten thousand different projections of the same exact song.

Of course, I'm talking about The Day Taylor Swift Came to Town.

Several months ago, Brad surprised me with tickets to a Taylor Swift concert at Ford Field. As a long-time fan, I couldn't wait to see how much Taylor's shows had evolved since her first tour about five years ago, when $20 bought a ticket to a live performance on my college campus. Of course, tickets for the Red Tour cost a bit more (and the venue was just a smidgen larger), so there was no doubt that this time around would be incredibly different.

Flash forward to May: the day of the concert. As soon as Brad turned the car onto the exit for downtown Detroit, I saw the Red Tour trucks lined up behind the stadium and started squealing like a little girl. We were several hours early for the show, which gave us plenty of time to grab lunch at Rub BBQ, take a little stroll to the river, and sneak a few snapshots with the huge tiger statue outside Comerica Park. When it was finally time to head inside Ford Field, we were a little intimidated by the long lines of people waiting to get inside, but lucky for us, we had pretty good floor seats and were able to bypass the crowds at a separate entrance that had no line and no wait. I have to tell you--I didn't hate it.

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The inside of the stadium swarmed with girls in color-coordinated outfits: some with huge bows on their heads, some with red wigs, some with obnoxious signs, and some donning cowboy boots. Excited as I was for the show to start, I started feeling really old, especially when I realized that many of the girls in the room weren't even born when the first Taylor Swift album was released. Oh, but nothing emphasized that quickly-aging feeling more than when the opening acts went on stage.

All together, there were three openers. The first--Brett Eldredge--was pretty good. A country singer with a song or two on the radio, Eldredge put on a show that I didn’t mind seeing my ticket money go towards. Then, there was a kid named Austin Mahone. My immediate reaction: Why on earth is Justin Bieber on the stage?

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Left to Right: Brett Eldredge, Austin Mahone the Bieber Clone, and Ed Sheeran

If you’re old (over 16) like me, you may have no clue who Austin Mahone is, either. But every teenage girl in the room that night knew exactly who he was, and they made sure they screamed loudly enough to tell the rest of the world. As the noise went on, all I could do was wonder how I had become so out of touch with teenage reality, all the while listening to Brad yell, “Pull your pants up!” to the boy on stage. We’re going to make such a wonderful, ornery, old couple one day.

Third opener: Ed Sheeran. He was good. British. Hobbit-like. An opportune time to get refills on our seven-dollar soda. And then it was 8:30, and I realized we had been in the stadium for two hours. Still no Taylor, but it was almost time for the main event.

All of a sudden, I heard a new breed of screams coming from the back of the stadium. People stood up all around me, craning their necks to see what was going on. Some people were whispering guesses that Taylor Swift had magically appeared within the crowd, when I saw a group of burly men usher someone to a seat a few rows ahead of us. I squinted my eyes on the person they guarded, trying to figure out who the VIP was.

Oh, hello, Darren Criss.

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I wear your grand-dad's clothes. I look incredible.

It’s almost disorienting to be within spitting distance of a TV star, especially when there are hordes of girls shoving cell phones in that person’s face to get a totally inconspicuous photo. Poor guy. I stood there, feeling a little sorry for his massive privacy invasion, then nudged Brad and told him to take a picture. I’m not proud, but I did end up with this image that I can now share with you. So, you’re welcome.

Finally, the lights went down, more screams erupted, and it was show time. Spotlights focused onstage to a large, red curtain, where a larger-than life silhouette of a hat-wearing, microphone-wielding girl suddenly appeared. The room went nuts.

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When Taylor appeared, there was an immediate confidence that took the place of the awestruck girl I saw in concert five years ago. She was poised, practiced, and had obviously come a long way since her days of touring college campuses. Just as I started to wonder if the old Swift had been completely consumed by a fame, the first song ended and she stood there—trying to downplay her smile as she took it all in. Yep, under all the smoke and mirrors, the same girl was still there.

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The show was fantastic. Fast-paced and full of energy, there was rarely a moment for rest as each song quickly played into the next. At one point, we even got a close-up glimpse of Taylor as she made her way through the crowd during stage-changes. There were a lot of people and blinding lights causing confusion, but Brad did manage to get this lovely picture of the back of her head:

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It's her, I promise.
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"I Knew You Were Trouble"
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And, "I Knew You Were Trouble," post quick-change.
The finale brought together creepy circus costumes and Swift’s annoying-but-I-can’t-get-it-out-of-my-head hit, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” On any normal day, I might have needed a couple of ibuprofen, but all the fireworks and confetti somehow led me to temporarily forgive and forget. After all, what’s the point of walking out of a concert feeling anything but happy?

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Girl on a crane. Fireworks. Heart-shaped confetti. Fantastic.

And don’t think we didn’t catch that wink you gave right before you disappeared under the stage, Taylor. Thanks for coming to see us in Detroit—we had a good time, too.

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