Concert Review

Taylor Swift Sweet as Sugar at Glendale Show

Country star Taylor Swift has to be the coolest 19-year-old who admittedly didn't have any friends in junior high. Now, she has famous friends like Garth Brooks and Miley Cyrus define the word "fearless" -- also the title of her latest album -- in a pre-show video. She rocks the acoustic guitar and sings teen-ready anthems so sweet it'll cause cavities. But underneath, the leggy blonde is still a music nerd at heart and the 15,000 or so kids in the audience of her show May 21, 2009, at Arena could relate to her tunes of broken hearts and crushes.

Dressed in a drum majorette uniform, Swift opened her show on a High School Musical note, arriving atop an altitudinous stage, complete with lockers and enough cheerleading uniforms to make the multiple Bring It On movies blush. Swift performed "You Belong With Me" donning the drum majorette uniform until the "cheerleaders," er backup dancers, ripped off the outfit to reveal a sassy, frilly, metallic dress.

The talented singer-songwriter performed nearly 20 songs, most of which on her acoustic guitar, throughout the course of the two-hour show. She skipped around the two-story stage like a little girl trapped in a woman's body while performing tracks like "You Belong With Me." The stage also possessed three winding staircases of which Swift made ample use and a video screen that lined its back wall. The main floor of the stage jutted out near the audience that provided an ample view for the screaming girls. At some points of the show, she channeled her inner enthusiastic little girl herself. "You're one of my favorite places to play concerts because you are always loud," she said geekily. "I love you because you're fun."

The well-documented ex-girlfriend of Joe Jonas showed off her comedic chops as well during the concert. In telling the fans how much she's learned from them, she said, "You taught me I'm not the only girl who burns her ex-boyfriends' pictures." During the multiple costume changes, she kept the crowd entertained with video sketches. In one, which mocked an interview session, she ended her conversation with "If guys don't want to me write bad things about them, they shouldn't do bad things," which was responded to favorably by the teens in the arena. Another traced the current lives of the men behind her songs, most of whom were plucked from obscurity and shamed through her music after a rough break-up. One of the men in the video: a clueless Tim McGraw who elicited squeals from the girls in the arena.

After the video, she appeared near section 112 to perform the relentlessly catchy "Hey Stephen." During a musical interlude, she made her way down the stairs--hugging fans, taking pictures and signing autographs--to a revolving stage in the back of the arena, on which she sang "Fifteen" and the fan favorite "Tim McGraw."

But the most charming parts of the night were when she kept it simple and played her lullabyesque songs like "White Horse" or chatted with the audience. "The most important thing you taught me was it doesn't matter if you didn't have friends in junior high when you have a sold-out arena full of your best friends in Phoenix."

In the end of the pre-show video, Swift defined "fearless" as "going out on stage and giving it your all every night." Indeed.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Taylor Swift with Gloriana and Kellie Pickler at Arena on May 21, 2009.

Better Than: Almost certainly better than the new comedy "JONAS."

Personal Bias: I am inundated with Taylor Swift's music whenever my 12- and 14-year-old nieces step into my car.

Random Detail: In a chilling Jon Benet moment, a 3-ish-year-old little girl stepped into the arena, with a silver guitar slung over her shoulder, and wearing black cowboy boots and a black sparkly dress.

Further Listening: There wasn't much that Taylor Swift didn't perform during her 20-song set. So take a second listen to "Teardrops on My Guitar" to recall the broken-hearted feelings of seventh-grade crushes.

By The Way: If you ask me, Taylor Swift's best prop is her hair, which she swung around like Phil Anselmo back in Pantera's heyday.

One More Thing: Taylor Swift will be a shoo-in for her four CMT award nominations for "Love Story" if she keeps schlepping for votes at her concerts.

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Christina Fuoco-Karasinski