There's been a lot of love between fan and star in the history of Mellon Arena, but it's hard to remember it getting as intense as it did Thursday night for Taylor Swift on her first headlining tour.
The 19-year-old phenom brought in a massive production with multiple set and costume changes, and yet the moments to remember will be Swift suddenly appearing in the middle of section B-16 to sing "Hey Stephen" and then, after "Tim McGraw," hugging her way the entire length of the arena floor back to the stage.
Once there, the screaming ovation rocked the sold-out house for the length of a song. They weren't screams that said "Wow, you're pretty and talented and awesome!" They were screams that said "Wow, you're pretty and talented and awesome -- and you seem like a real person who genuinely likes us!"
Those are rare screams.
Initially, Swift hit the stage for "You Belong With Me" in a majorette uniform immediately evoking a certain teen pop sensation from a previous decade. Unlike Britney, though, when the cheerleader dancers stripped off her outfit, Swift stood center stage not in lingerie but a flashy yet tasteful party dress. That's because Swift comes to her fame having spent her early teen years sitting in her bedroom writing songs on acoustic guitar, and until now she's been performing them that way as an opening act for country's biggest stars.
Having gone full-fledged pop star, she has all the bells and whistles to let her imagination fly. She delivered on her promise of musical theater by acting out many of the songs, starting modestly at a school desk with a young crush on "Teardrops on My Guitar" and working her way up to princess in a white gown at an Elizabethan ball for the Shakespearean "Love Story."
Swift also got to play innocent balladeer ("Fifteen"), mad rock 'n' roller ("Forever & Always") and dramatic piano chanteuse a la Tori Amos ("You're Not Sorry"). As a rocker, Swift made good use of all that wavy blond hair, swinging it like a headbanger in a Clairol commercial.
The voice, quite lovely of course, came through best during the tender unplugged portions. On the poppier tunes, it was buried quite a bit by the clatter and an annoying drum echo.
Far from shy, Swift proved to be quite chatty when Kanye West isn't grabbing her mike. With Britney it was all just "look at me." Swift's set was more about connecting and conveying the notion that you can be an awkward junior high school girl with no friends and not only survive that but live out your dream.
Along with the T-shirt and glow stick, the little girls went home with that sweet message.
Gloriana opened the show, along with former "American Idol" star Kellie Pickler, who made a case for future headlining status.
Pickler was only the third biggest star in the arena Thursday night, as Kate Gosselin, of "Jon & Kate Plus 8," was seen walking through the crowd toward backstage with her twin girls.
Scott Mervis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2576. First Published October 2, 2009 4:15 AM