On multiple occasions during the first night of Taylor Swift's two-night Reputation Stadium Tour stop at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, I came across men who acted as though they didn't want to be at the concert.
"I think I'll just hang here for a bit; it's not like I'm in a hurry to get back out there, you know what I'm sayin'?" remarked a muscular beer-buyer near one of the bars just off the main stadium floor during Camila Cabello's dramatic opening set.
And later, during Swift's show, a guy in a golf shirt seated behind me stood, arms crossed with an exasperated look of defeat. When I turned in his direction at about halfway through the show, he nodded to me and said, "Well, this shouldn't take much longer, huh?"
Maybe these guys were genuinely annoyed to be there at those points in time. It's entirely likely both were dragged to the show by a friend, spouse or daughter and just assumed that since I am also of the male persuasion, I must be a fellow pop prisoner or half-hearted Swift soldier simply marching to keep the peace.
Regardless of how either fellow entered the stadium, both were soon converted into squealing fanboys. But let's be honest here, I doubt either tough actor required any sort of converting. Not long after my initial encounter with the beer bro, I caught a glimpse of him dropping it low and busting a move during Swift's rafter-rattling "Getaway Car." During "Blank Space," the preppy golf guy went ape as his buddy filmed him screaming the whole song with a closed-eyed fervor and some unfortunate gyrations.
Over the course of two hours, the 28-year old Swift offered a majestic, mature performance complete with impossibly impressive and gargantuan stage production. Opening with "...Ready for it?" and "I Did Something Bad," both from her most recent album Reputation, the show got off to a bombastic, club-banging start.
It was also literally a hot beginning. Broadway-style dance productions, shooting plumes of smoke, soaring fireworks and the palpable heat of fiery torches ensured things were, as the kids say these days, "lit." The ominous video presentation and matching sinister feel for "Look What You Made Me Do" served further notice that this night wasn't about teen teardrops on country guitars.
The ruckus caused by a couple of Swift's hit medleys rivaled the jet-engine force of any song when metal legends Metallica performed in the same stadium last year. By melding latter-day gems with early-era favorites, Swift creatively covered her career bases to the deafening delight of her army of so-called "Swifties."
Although the men in the audience had every right to feel safe about letting their T-Swift flags fly, this was certainly a showcase of some supreme woman power. Cabello and fellow opening act Charli XCX joined the headliner on one of the two satellite stages near the back of the stadium floor for a colorful "Shake it Off," not long before Swift surprised the crowd by introducing Arlington native Maren Morris, who has become a household name herself. The pair teamed up for a chummy take on Morris' summer smash "The Middle," highlighting the celebration of musical sisterhood.
It wasn't all flames, big beats and imposing video screens though. Armed with only an acoustic guitar, Swift earnestly offered "Dancing With Our Hands Tied," and "White Horse," which was the first time she sang the decade-old song on this tour, to an impressively quiet stadium. As the set sped to its conclusion back on the main stage, Swift sat at her piano for an elegant yet anthemic mashup of "Long Live" and "New Year's Day."
With confetti cannons, larger-than-life visuals and her entire squadron of dancers, singers and musicians at her back, Swift ended with a triumphant medley of "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" and "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things." The closing sequence could've won a Tony award for the imaginative whimsy and awe-inspiring spectacle offered.
With her ascension from teen country starlet to globally dominant pop powerhouse, Swift is the sort of transcendent superstar most everyone can agree on. In the '90s, everyone was a Michael Jordan fan, no matter which NBA city one lived in. For a couple of decades now, it's been nearly impossible to find a movie buff who doesn't adore Tom Hanks, regardless of whether they're a horror loyalist, a rom-com aficionado or a proud sci-fi geek.
As the first artist to perform back-to-back concerts in the history of AT&T Stadium, it might be more appropriate to suggest Hanks and Jordan are the Taylor Swifts of their respective realms.
And to the dudes I encountered early in the evening, don't worry about your manly reputations so much. Having a great time at a Taylor Swift show is impossible to avoid, so don't bother trying.