On October 22, 2016, in a tightly packed 80-minute set that covered all her hits to date and a host of back catalog favorites, Taylor deftly demonstrated exactly why she’s one
of the biggest stars of her generation; with fantastic vocal chops, perfectly choreographed stage routines that were artfully crafted to convey a sense of spontaneity and an uncanny knack
for transmitting intimacy across a massive crowd, she wowed the 80'000 fans in attendance. This was her only performance of 2016, and her first show since her “1989 World Tour" had wrapped in December 2015 - and it was ecstatically received.
“Oh hi, Austin, Texas…Welcome to F1 weekend,” Swift said, addressing the screaming masses with casual charm after opening with “New Romantics.” Backed by a five piece band and four backup
singers, she segued into “22” unleashing the first of several increasingly explosive fireworks displays that would augment her set. Then she dropped a bombastic rendition of “Blank Space” that
began with a surprisingly lovely harmonized intro and an enthusiastic audience singalong.
She encouraged the audience to “Let go of anything that’s stressing us, sing at the top of our lungs and scream when we need to scream,” and the crowd happily obliged throughout the show.
Swift said the crowd for the show numbered 80'000 and gazing out across the massive throng that filled the field in the middle of the track, the figure seemed entirely plausible. Unlike past
years when the "Formula One" musical entertainment had been a side attraction to the main event, many fans clearly shelled out for $150 three-day race passes specifically to see Swift. (There
were no single-day Saturday general admission tickets sold.) Around 3:30 p.m., as the day’s race activities were beginning to wrap up, distinctively Swiftian crowds, loaded with young girls
aplenty, were boarding shuttle buses headed toward the track.
The process of converting the grounds from racetrack to concert venue took somewhat longer than anticipated, and the gate to enter the lawn in front of the Superstage where Swift performed opened
35 minutes late. The crowd became restless and a demanding chant, “Taylor! Taylor! Taylor!” broke out at the front of the line shortly before the gates opened.
Once the lawn section started to fill out, families who opted to spread blankets in the middle to back section of the lawn fared better than those who attempted to navigate the crush of people in
the front section where sight lines and breathing room were both tough to come by.
The stage was flanked by a pair of massive screens with a third screen as the backdrop. Visual effects on the screens were relatively minimal throughout the show. Primarily, they served a
practical purpose: to transmit the detailed gestures and expressions Swift uses to conjure the many sides of her character to the huge crowd. The secret to Swift’s star power rests in how
effectively she draws the audience in, with blown kisses and conspiratorial winks and sincere declarations about exactly how meaningful it is to spend her life “opening her journal and letting
you read it.”
At one point, she strapped on an acoustic guitar and dipped into her back catalog, playing songs she said she usually leaves off her setlist including one of her earliest hits “You Belong With
Me.” Later she sat at the sparkliest piano in the world for a suite showcasing her raw talent as a musician and songwriter that included passionate renditions of “Sparks Fly” and “Enchanted.”
She mashed up “We Are Never Getting Back Together” and “Bad Blood” in a furious one-two punch that made you shudder for anyone forced to face her withering wrath, but she saved the best message
for her haters for the end.
“Do you want to dance?” she asked the audience, before taking the set out with an exhilarating rendition of “Shake It Off” accompanied by an astounding fireworks display that literally lit the
night on fire.
There was no surprise album drop, no special guests and no encore, but it didn’t matter. The mood was ebullient as thousands made the long slog across the racetrack to the fleet of shuttles
waiting to efficiently ferry them home.