There was a strange vibe at the Imax AMC Theater when I saw the highly entertaining Taylor Swift concert film Eras.
I went to the 6:00 p.m. show on Saturday, Oct. 21, on Second Avenue and East 30th Street. This was more than just another ballyhooed concert movie, like The Band’s The Last Waltz or Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense. Eras felt like a happening. Audience members of all ages dressed up in replica Taylor outfits. Little kids applied Taylor-like lipstick and put glitter on their faces. I never saw anybody attend a showing of Stop Making Sense in David Byrne’s trademark Big Suit.
Confounding Movie Audience
But the Taylor Swift movie audience was confounding at first. For the first part of the movie, they stayed in their seats, awestruck and mesmerized, with their eyes glued to the giant Imax screen, as if on their best behavior.
I had an epiphany: The kids wanted to make a good impression, as if Taylor herself might be lurking in the shadows and watching their every move, either approvingly or disapprovingly.
I had only seen this phenomenon once before at a concert, when the audience wants the star to like them. (Usually, of course, it is the other way around.) It occurred on Jan. 31, 1974, when Bob Dylan and The Band played a matinee at Madison Square Garden during Dylan’s triumphant comeback, dubbed “Tour ’74.”
That day, we crowd members couldn’t completely relax and enjoy the show because we were so intent on winning Dylan’s approval. Our approach raised the stakes and made the gig feel like something bigger than a garden-variety rock and roll concert. Same thing with Taylor’s movie.
Little kids dressed up in Taylor-like outfits, too. and sported t-shirts quoting Taylor’s lyrics. Some pint-sized Swifties, some who looked to be about six years old, showcased replicas of the many costumes that Taylor wore in the film.
The movie itself started by packing the punch of a bungee jump. Taylor was in full flight from the first note of “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince.” That was what I expected, all right.
Then the crowd got going during the Evermore Era. Kids started jumping around and applauding wildly. At that point, they stood up and rendered their plush seats useless. They weren’t about to sit down again.
Eventually, whole rows of people were on their feet, dancing and pogoing. The show in the audience almost matched the fever pitch that Taylor Swift and her background singers and band brought to the show.
Taylor, by the way, is an incredible performer. In the spirit of Prince, Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney, Taylor never slows down! She barely paused to get a drink of water. Either she was singing or dancing or bantering or strumming an acoustic guitar. There was no let-up for well over two hours. It was something to behold.
The film was filmed during her performance at SoFi Stadium, located in a suburb of Los Angeles. SoFi is an enormous, state-of-the-art football extravaganza, seating 70,400 people. It’s where the likes of such old-guard icons as McCartney and Springsteen could be expected to pack every seat.
A New Swifty is Born (to Run)!
If you go to the film, I advise you to make sure you are hydrated. Take your bathroom break before the show begins. If you are any kind of a Taylor Swift fan, you will simply not want to leave the theater, even for a minute, in case you might miss a costume change or an example of her on-stage chatter.
Make no mistake, Taylor LOVES her fans. She is not an alumnus of the I’m-too-cool-to-talk-to-my-audience. That came across to the throng at the AMC theater. Taylor’s natural generosity of spirit came across.
“I like her for even more than her music,” said a preteen who was chaperoned by her mother, Victoria Rocco of Brooklyn. “She seems like a really nice person.”
Added another approving young girl in the Rocco group, “She gives millions of dollars to charity.”
“And just think of the whole experience of going to one of the concerts,” noted Victoria Rocco after the film. She was accompanied by a couple of beaming preteens. “This was only one small theater!”
Before the show, I chatted a bit with some AMC employees who asked not to be identified by name. I asked them if the crowds were starting to thin here in the second week that the film was being shown.
“Nope,” said a grinning young woman who took tickets. “In fact, the audiences are even more enthusiastic this week. We can hear them enjoying themselves out here.”
The Taylor Swift movie is getting stiff competition from another new movie that just arrived there, Killers of the Flower Moon, a shameful saga of American history directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert DeNiro and Lily Gladstone.
“I think the Flower Moon movie may cut into Taylor Swift’s movie,” said an AMC employee.
For me, someone who admittedly is not anything close to a card-carrying Swiftie, it was heartwarming to see the audience get so excited for a few hours. We live in scary times. It’s nice when people can forget their troubles and get excited about their idol, Taylor Swift.