Review: ‘Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour’ among greatest concert films of all time

Film runs nearly 3 hours and contains more than 40 songs

Taylor Swift has won yet another award.

However, she has done so in a unique way, providing fans with a career-spanning major theatrical release that ranks as nothing less than one of the greatest concert films ever made.

The Sam Wrench-directed offering, which opened this week and is expected to quickly break box office records as the highest-grossing concert film of all time, succeeds in a variety of ways, amplifying the strengths of the blockbuster tour of the same name while nicely translating the experience from cavernous football stadiums to movie houses.

That isn’t easy, but it helps when the film crew is working with stellar source material — and “The Eras Tour” is nothing short of brilliant. However, there’s more to it than that, given that the tour is designed to be filmable.

The tour is organized by different eras (or, more specifically, albums) in Swift’s career, with the singer performing a batch of material from one disc before moving on to the next. Each of these segments plays out onstage like a separate chapter, with the star adopting various thematic stage settings/wardrobes/special effects that correspond to the respective albums. There are nine chapters in total, or ten if you include the “surprise songs” segment.

These different chapters really break up the action into easily digestible pieces on film, even more so than during the actual live show. You never get tired of what you’re watching because the next adventure is just around the corner.

This is critical for a film that lasts approximately 2 hours and 50 minutes. Granted, that run time is still 40 minutes shorter than what I saw during the first night of the Eras Tour stop at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara back in July.

But it’s a long time for any concert film that isn’t called “Woodstock,” and it’s roughly twice the length of the Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense,” the critically acclaimed rock doc from 1984 that was recently re-released in theaters.

Despite this, “The Eras Tour” does not feel overly long. There will undoubtedly be some Swifties who complain about what was cut out of the show to keep it under three hours. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who wishes Swift had included one more Era in the mix and emphasized her self-titled debut. (The film does, however, include “Our Song” from the first album in the “Surprise” song segment.)

Swift’s greatest strength, among many others, is her ability to connect with the audience. I’ve never seen anyone do it better in my 30 years of writing about concerts. She does it with big pop production numbers that get everyone dancing and singing along at full volume, and she does it even better with the most basic of body language, captivating crowds of 50,000-plus with a wink of an eye or a sideways glance.

Wrench focuses the film on capturing that incredible trait, never allowing special effects, dance routines, or other big production elements to overshadow Swift’s sheer charisma. He’s constantly directing our attention to her megawatt smile, overwhelming sense of joy onstage, and connection with fans.

Wrench also avoids common concert movie tropes like backstage scenes or interviews with musicians, fans, and so on. The focus of the film is on the concert performance.

That’s a wise decision, because it must have been tempting to let the magnitude of the occasion — the film is based on multiple sold-out nights at Los Angeles’ massive SoFi Stadium — dictate the direction. Despite the fact that tens of thousands of people have gathered in the second largest city in the United States to see one of the biggest pop stars of all time, this film manages to feel very intimate.

Swift’s performances are simply magnetic, as she waltzes through her 17-year recording career, pausing here and there to perform some of the best songs of the twenty-first century. It’s simply must-see television for all Swifties.

Of course, the ability to appeal to non-fans is a defining feature of any great concert film. And I believe the film ticks that box as well.

“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” is for anyone who wants to not only experience, but also fully understand and appreciate an incredible artist who is accomplishing things that few have ever done before.

Setlist for a concert film (“Lover”)

Concert film setlist (“Lover”)

  1. “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince”
  2. “Cruel Summer”
  3. “The Man”
  4. “You Need to Calm Down”
  5. “Lover” (“Fearless”)
  6. “Fearless”
  7. “You Belong With Me”
  8. “Love Story” (“Evermore”)
  9. “Willow”
  10. “Marjorie”
  11. “Champagne Problems”
  12. “Tolerate It” (“Reputation”)
  13. “…Ready for It?”
  14. “Delicate”
  15. “Don’t Blame Me”
  16. “Look What You Made Me Do” (“Speak Now”)
  17. “Enchanted” (“Red”)
  18. “22″
  19. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
  20. “I Knew You Were Trouble”
  21. “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” (“Folklore”)
  22. “The 1”
  23. “Betty”
  24. “The Last Great American Dynasty”
  25. “August”
  26. “Illicit Affairs”
  27. “My Tears Ricochet” (“1989″)
  28. “Style”
  29. “Blank Space”
  30. “Shake It Off”
  31. “Wildest Dreams”
  32. “Bad Blood” (Surprise songs)
  33. “Our Song”
  34. “You’re on Your Own, Kid” (“Midnights”)
  35. “Lavender Haze”
  36. “Anti-Hero”
  37. “Midnight Rain”
  38. “Vigilante Shit”
  39. “Bejeweled”
  40. “Mastermind”
  41. “Karma”

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