So, after buying the tickets over a year ago, and dramas with the people I was originally going with no longer coming, the night finally arrived. This is my fourth Tay Tay concert. The first one I went to was at a (relatively) small location that most Melbournians are familiar with as a nightclub – Billboards. She would have been about 19, this was her first time performing in Australia and she only had one album behind her. She was still very country-sounding, and still had her famous curly hair. There was maybe 500 people in the venue.
Flashforward to now, six and a half years later, and she’s sold out three Melbourne shows, has lost her curls and has moved far away from her country roots. She still enjoys her sparkly dresses though!
I’ll be honest, after the dramas leading up to it and the massive wait since purchasing the tickets, my enthusiasm wasn’t particularly high as I was heading in for the show. It didn’t help it was Friday night after a long work week, and I’d been up since 6am. Still, I’d wrangled presale tickets that cost $180 each (a far cry from the $50 I paid way back in 2009) so I was going to try to “shake off” my tiredness and enjoy the show.
The first thing I did was head to the nearest merch stand and join the massive line. I know it’s a rip off but I always get something from concerts. I couldn’t get anything at Billboards, but each concert since I’ve grabbed something – the first I got was a cute hat, the following one I got a shirt (which I still wear more than pretty much anything else). As I was standing in line, squinting to see what was on offer, I was tossing up whether to get another shirt, or spend an arm and a leg on a hoodie. I decided to bite the bullet and go for the hoodie as I didn’t have many jumpers anyway, and I already had a shirt. At the last second, my best mate jumped in and shoved cash at the girl, telling me it was my Christmas present. I honestly didn’t see it coming and didn’t have time to react, so I couldn’t stop him spending so much on me. It was nice of him to do, but the hoodie was $100.
After waiting in line for over half an hour and not having eaten since lunch (which felt like a lifetime ago by this stage), we headed off to find food. This was when it first became clear that the venue – AAMI Park – was not like the usual arena these sort of concerts were held at (it’s normally held at its sister stadium Rod Lavar Arena, but Elton John was performing there that night). Rod Lavar Arena had everything inside the concourse and you could enter through any door and walk around. AAMI park, it seemed, did not work like that, at least not during this kind of event. We initially headed up the closest steps which read Gate 6, 7 and 8, assuming we’d just walk around to Gate 2 (where we needed to be). Once we got up there, though, there were temporary fences blocking the way and mobs of people trying to work out where to go. Even with security around, there just wasn’t enough to get to everyone.
We headed back down the stairs and started walking around the outside of the stadium, not even sure if we were headed in the right direction. On the way, we stopped by a food stand and purchased overpriced, tasteless dinner. I could say it was disappointing (and it was), but Australians have come to expect that from stadiums so there’s really not much point in going into detail with that. We ate it to curb our hunger, not because we thought we’d enjoy it. As we were eating, we kept walking, battling through the enormous crowds, hoping like hell we were walking in the right direction and we wouldn’t hit another fence. Luckily, we found the right gate and headed up, only to be told in no uncertain terms we would not be allowed in with backpacks…and my friend had a giant one as he’d come straight from work. I also had a large bag, although I wasn’t told specifically one way or the other whether mine would be acceptable. As it was getting late, we just assumed mine would be too big as well, to save us getting knocked back a second time. We were told to go back downstairs and to the drop off arena. Another line to wait in. Backpacks were never an issue at Rod Lavar, so this was another annoyance to add to the list. Nobody even gave an explanation as to why – it just was.
While I was waiting, I changed into my new hoodie, as the night was already cooling down quickly and I’d only worn a light cardigan. The hoodie was awesome – I got the biggest size they had, and it was oversized and warm and snuggly. I was very happy about that as I was worried it’d be bad quality (as some stuff from merch stands can be). Instead, it’s now the best jumper I own!
After finally dropping off our bags and heading upstairs again, we were let inside. They handed us a white rubbery bracelet at the door, and then we basically had to fumble our way through the concourse trying to decipher the signage. Yet another thing Rod Lavar does better – a lot better. The signage was confusing, sometimes hard to find and always hard to translate back to what was on the ticket. Once we finally found the right door to go through, we headed down to the floor. As I mentioned earlier, these were expensive presale tickets. I was under the impression they’d be good seats. While I’m not denying there were probably worse ones, these weren’t fantastic. The seats were cheap plastic temporary ones, zip-tied together far too close for comfort so when everyone was sitting we were all crammed in. The other issue with being on the floor was that its all one level, so unless you’re in the front row of your section, it’s a gamble as to what you’ll actually be able to see. I wasn’t impressed. And before anyone starts, presale tickets don’t give you a massive choice of seating, so I couldn’t have chosen to go Level 1 or 2 even if I’d wanted to, unless I took my chances and waited until they officially went on sale, but the previous tour tickets sold out within twenty minutes or something, so I didn’t want to risk it. Plus, you’d assume presale tickets would be good seats anyway.
My other annoyance was that the roof doesn’t close on AAMI Park. It was designed to be a sports arena (namely, soccer) so I guess they didn’t need a roof for that. All I can say is, I’m glad it didn’t rain, as being on the floor (aka the ground) would mean there’s absolutely no protection from the weather. It was seriously cold though. The wind was strong and icy and everyone was shivering and pulling on any extra layers they could. I, once again, was relived I’d chosen the hoodie at the merch stand. I don’t think I’d have lasted through the whole concert with just the cardigan I came with. Had the concert been at Rod Lavar like the previous two, the stadium roof would have been closed and the wind blocked out. Instead, we all froze half to death.
As the seats filled up, it became very apparent I’m not going to be able to see very much. I was about halfway down in our ‘section’ and there were taller people in the front rows. Plus, I had little girls in the seats in front of me (maybe about 8 and 10) and the only way they could see over anyone was to stand on their seats. I completely understood, but it didn’t help my view. $180 and I could barely even see the giant screens next to the stage (never mind the stage itself). What a joke. As there was a massive space next to our seats (I’m talking at least 5×5 metres, minimum), I went and stood there instead, where my view was much, much better.
The concert started with a bang, as it should. It started with Welcome to New York, with giant black-and-white noir-style images on the screens behind the stage. It quickly jumped then into New Romantics, one of my favourite tracks off the album.
During costume changes, there were “interviews” with Taylor’s squad, including Selena Gomez and her best friend Abigail, full of messages targeted at the younger members of the audience. All bubbly and uplifting and occasionally funny. Again, I understand the motive behind them, and I’m sure the younger members of the audience enjoyed them and got something from them, but for the older people (which is actually a large majority), it was a time to notice the cold and wish she’d come back on stage to distract us from it once more.
About halfway through she played my favourite song from the album, How to Get the Girl. It was also around this time that an old security guard marched up to us and told us we must go back to our seats due to “OH&S issues”. What the fuck does that mean? We weren’t in the way, there was metres of space on either side, we were still close to the seating, and we weren’t hurting anyone at all by being there. I was going to argue, but I knew exactly what he’d say – “if I let you do it, I’ll have to let everyone do it”. Fair enough, except most people seemed okay where they were. It was only us and maybe two others from our seating group who’d decided to move slightly away from the seats. Whatever. My bad mood returned as I struggled to see anything at all. It again crossed my mind to leave, not because of the concert (it was her usual awesome quality), but because of the awful venue choice. I managed to find somewhere to stand where I could see at least one screen, so that helped. It also helped that a couple of songs after How to Get the Girl, she’d jumped onto a giant crane and was above the heads of the crowd, so I could finally get a decent view that wasn’t from a screen.
When she jumped onto the crane, she played a really old song of hers, Fifteen, as her twenty-sixth birthday is next week. It’s a great song, so this lifted my mood again further. She spent the next few songs on the crane, so standing in my seating area wasn’t an issue. She played Love Story, which I’d seen her perform at her last two concerts, but this was a slightly more rocky version, and was really cool. Then – sadly – she got off the crane. By this point, though, the little girls in front had succumbed to the cold and had gone home, so my view suddenly got a lot better anyway. (Side note, another reason why this venue sucks. I mean, yes, I got my view, but those little girls had probably been counting down the months, weeks and days to come to this concert and then left halfway through because they couldn’t stand the wind any more. And their parents would have paid the same price for a ticket I had, but for 4 people as the girls had an older sister with them as well – that’s $720 for half a concert! They battled to stay too, but it got to the point one of them was hunched over and close to tears from the cold. Seriously, that’s messed up.)
The best two songs IMO came right towards then end, when she played We’re Never Getting Back Together followed closely by Wildest Dreams. The coolest part of that was she’d remixed the latter to combine any older song of hers – Enchanted – with it. I love both those songs, so it was the highlight of the show for me.
Sadly, unlike her US and UK shows, Australia didn’t get any surprise visits from Taylor’s friends. I can’t say I’m surprised, as down under usually miss out on stuff like that, but it would have been nice to have had it too.
As the show wrapped up with Shake It Off, we left halfway through. Not by choice, really, as I would have loved to see it through to the end, but because we knew if we didn’t get out early, we’d get stuck in the massive line to collect our bags. It was lucky we did leave then, as we were right towards the front of the line. Once the show let out, the line was so long it wrapped around the outside of the stadium so far I couldn’t see it any more. We assumed they’d be pleased we’d come early and gratefully hand over our things as quickly as possible. After the evening’s dramas though, I don’t know what gave me that idea. We were told that the bags were being kept in a secure location but couldn’t be accessed until a majority of the people had cleared the stadium as it was right off a corridor that is used to let people out. Basically, they couldn’t give us our stuff for “at least twenty minutes, but maybe longer”.
I was extremely annoyed by the way this stadium ran things. I don’t know who designed it or why it was thought to be a good idea to do it that way, but if you aren’t going to allow backpacks into the arena, thereby forcing a large number of patrons to use the cloak room system that otherwise wouldn’t and who didn’t have any choice in the matter, don’t make them wait for twenty minutes in the blistering cold to get them back. It’s common fucking sense. Either cordon off the corridor, or don’t use that area to store stuff in the first place. Once they finally deemed the stadium empty enough, it was just as disorganised actually getting our stuff back. There was one little table slotted in one little doorway, and they’d take the ticket they’d given us earlier and tell us to “wait to the side” – all well and good except they’re saying that to 10, 20, 30 people at once. There’s physically no room to fit that many people in that little space. And yet, they kept insisting people “move over” to let people who hadn’t given their ticket in. It was chaos. I was so relived when my bag finally made an appearance. I just wanted to get out of there.
On the walk back, the traffic we walked past was absolutely bumper-to-bumper stopped back as far as the eye could see. I don’t think it was a great idea to have Elton John and Taylor Swift playing at stadiums a stones-throw away from each other. The city streets couldn’t deal with that kind of traffic. The line at the taxi rank was enormous, and I’m sure would have taken hours to clear as the cars were barely moving in front of it, meaning taxis couldn’t get there if they wanted to. As cold and tired as I was, I was glad I’d predicted this and had parked further away from it all. I could hear people talking on phones nearby complaining loudly about having no way to get home.
One thing I haven’t mentioned but that really, really impressed me was the free bracelets we got given at the door. They lit up different colours and at different times in time to the music. I know that doesn’t sound all that cool, but in a sea of 30,000 people, all with them on, it was beautiful. The thing that impressed me the most about it was that they’d managed to do it by seating – for one song, the people in the stands had their bracelets lit up blue, and us down on the floor had them green. I’m sure this will become the new norm for concerts in the future, as it beats the hell out of mobile phone screens and overpriced flashing torches from the merch stand.
Overall, the concert itself was great, and the setlist, backgrounds, special effects, costumes and crane usage was very well done and thought out. I only wish the venue hadn’t let me down in so many ways, and almost ruined a night that should have been epic. I will not be going back to AAMI Park for concerts (and seeing as how sport is not my thing, it’s a safe bet I won’t be going there for that either). If Taylor performs there next time, I will be skipping it. I’m not going to risk spending big bucks and not being able to enjoy myself. I only hope that she manages to get back to Rod Lavar next time where everything is a lot better!