When fans fill up football stadiums, the last thing they bargain for is heartbreak.
Unless Taylor Swift is in town. The 23-year-old superstar, whom we can go ahead and call the biggest in the world, makes it hurt so spectacularly.
On Saturday night, the girl from Reading, Pa., pulled into Heinz Field -- where she sang the national anthem as an unknown 16-year-old -- with a tour that takes production values to the next level, all in glorious "Red." There were red dresses, red shoes, red lip gloss, red lights, red carpets, red guitars, red piano, red everything in her red zone.
The cherry-flavored eye candy was out of this world, starting from the top with "State of Grace," which had her in silhouette behind a billowing red curtain that dropped to reveal her in outfit No. 1 -- sassy in white top, black hot pants and bowler hat, red shoes.
Aside from the fact that she is a pop/country star who can actually sing, write, play multiple stringed instruments and dance (but not too much), she has another thing going for her as a live performer: "the look." During "State of Grace," which sounds strikingly like stadium unit U2, she paused and gave us that cool mascara-ed, blue-eyed glare she may have gotten from Catwoman. In those Cover Girl moments, she lights up the big screens like a Hollywood starlet.
While Taylor may be awkward on those dates with famous boys, generating untold adorable songs, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone (outside of Springsteen and Chesney, no coincidence) who seems more happy and natural on a stage.
After rocking through an electric "Holy Ground," complete with flying drummers beating light-up drums, she spoke to the crowd of 57,000 -- a Heinz 57 who made the Steelers' house look like Arrowhead with all the red, plus the glowsticks and lighted signs -- they they were in her kitchen. She talked about how she compares emotions to colors and how red represents "the crazy emotions."
"Thank you for letting me write the soundtrack to your crazy emotions," she said.
We don't need to tell you that her soundtrack, image and the way she relates to young girls has none of the trashiness of a Madonna, Britney, Ke$ha or Rhianna (not that they aren't talented and fun in their own ways).
Musically speaking, she's come a long way from "Tim McGraw." She's admittedly all over the place, stocking her live set with a variety of styles and roles to play. "You Belong With Me" had her in a short red dress on a catwalk, part of a '60s-style girl group. "The Lucky One," an ironic commentary on fame, was a red-gowned red-carpet affair surrounded by paparazzi.
"Mean," directed at the haters (who no doubt feel this review is kind of gushy, which it is), started with her sitting on a trunk and picking at a banjo before jumping up to join the band on one of the evening's more countrified moments.
For "Stay Stay Stay," she found a cool connection with the Lumineers' "Ho Hey." For "22," she found a closer connection to the fans by having her boys crowd-surf her across the floor as she slapped hands and sang with teenage fervor.
Taylor also can sit down alone with an acoustic and be real, which she did on the B-stage with the peppy "Our Song." Opener Ed Sheeran joined her there for a sweet duet of their co-write "Everything Has Changed," and slowly made her way back serenading her fans with the lovestruck "Sparks Fly." She even went out of her way to kiss a little girl!
The new album also had her hooking up with Swedish masters Max Martin and Shellback, leading to the thumping dance-pop gem "I Knew You Were Trouble," one of the night's showstoppers, launched with an electric fiddle solo. It was a masquerade ball scene with Taylor arriving in a white gown that was ripped off for a black romper for the electronics to kick in hard and angry. It was quickly offset with her on piano for the power ballad "All Too Well" and the lavish Renaissance ballet for "Love Story."
For the climax, she went to overused circus theme for "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." Like everything else, though, it was dazzling with Taylor as ringmaster in a Wonderland of dancers, including men in stilts twirling red umbrellas. Ultimately, she took a cherry-picker over the crowd with everyone belting out the chorus as the place exploded with fireworks and confetti.
It's fitting and comical that she would sign off with a song, another Martin-Shellback-Swift production, that celebrates breaking up with such glee. Someday, her prince will come, but in the meantime, Taylor's emotions make beautiful theater when they're crazy, fire-engine, ketchup "Red."
For openers, we got a taste of Bieber-wannabe Austin Mahone, country hopeful Joel Crouse and British indie-folk-rap star Sheeran. He did his impressive one-man band routine, looping tracks on hits "Lego House" and "The A Team" group-sing and also covering Britney's "Baby, One More Time." Wearing a customized Steelers jersey. On the Steelers' field. You folks who look for Steelers omens can take your time pondering that one.
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2576 or on Twitter @scottmervis_pg. First Published July 7, 2013 2:45 AM