Taylor Swift’s City of Lover Concert aired on ABC on Sunday at the most prime of times, following the season-ending American Idol episode in which, alas, Narberth’s Louis Knight did not win.
When the socially distanced “Idol” broadcast ended with a “We Are The World” singalong led by Lionel Richie, City of Lover snapped Swifties back to the painfully inaccessible recent past.
The hour-long show had been recorded in September 2019 at the Olympia theater in Paris shortly after the release of Lover, Swift’s seventh album and her most mature to date.
City of Lover, which as of Monday is now streaming on Hulu and Disney+, was staged before 2,800 excitable fans crammed into a space that was intimate by the standards of Swift, who typically plays two nights at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
Watching it on lockdown reminds us of the thrill of hearing musicians we love while actually standing alongside fellow music lovers who share our ardor. Remember that?
The show was part of a Swift promotional run for Lover, and the only proper full-length concert with a band that she performed. (In the U.S., she did a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR music that was a solo enterprise.)
With all of Swift’s 2020 dates cancelled, City of Lover is going to have to do to tide fans over until the tour can be rescheduled in 2021.
The City of Lover show, edited for TV, is enticing. But it’s also frustratingly brief. Swift is justifiably proud of her songwriting on the album, which finds her largely getting past the obsession with haters that began to be a drag by 2017’s Reputation.
And for anyone who hasn’t been paying attention over the last decade, her gift for marrying personal stories to undeniable pop hooks is here on full display.
There were a few big production numbers — the opening one, “Me!,"benefited greatly from being disassociated from its cotton-candy video clip with Brendon Urie of Panic at the Disco! (absent here). The show closed with a full-band treatment of Lover’s title cut.
But for the most part, Swift was alone on stage, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar or piano, giving her fans something to shriek about by sharing a big reveal or two. She wrote “Cornelia Street” in the bathtub!
The whole performance is energized with the kick that comes from playing songs in public for the first time. (Not knowing it would be the last time, for awhile.)
With a full load of commercials, some starring Swift, the whole show amounted to 42 minutes of music, with all eight songs, including a touching “Daylight” and pointed “The Archer,” coming from Lover.
That’s understandable. Swift has an album to promote. But the actual Olympia concert was 16 songs long, with eight songs from her ample catalog, such as the masterful “All Too Well” and of course, a “Shake It Off” encore.
It would have been nice if City of Lover could have found a room for a few of those, rather than be a single-minded promotion vehicle for the not-so-new-anymore album. But I suppose we’ll have to wait for the expanded version for that.