But I can see us lost in the memory

Taylor Swift – Johan Cruijff ArenA, Amsterdam; July 5th, 2024

Tayler Swift has been on my list of people to see live for a few years now, but I had no idea how hard it would be to get tickets. In the first rounds, I didn’t get any and had given up on the idea, when out of the blue I got an email, that I could now buy a ticket for Amsterdam. I had been on the waiting list for those shows and about two weeks before the first concerts, more tickets got released.  So when I finally had that ticket I got ridiculously excited about it and could hardly wait. The show was nothing short of amazing and absolutely worth the trip to Amsterdam.

I had a ticket for Friday’s show and took the day off, juts to make sure I’d get there on time. Took a train from Duisburg just before noon, got to Amsterdam without any disruption and checked in to my hostel at 2 pm. There were loads of Taylor fans there. Got some food and went to he stadium around 3:30, seeing loads of fans on the metro. Most of the women were in glittery dresses and all of them were wearing lots of bracelets with tiny beads and songtitles. For the first tie I felt underdressed for a concert. 😉 Once in line, I chatted wit the woman next to me and she to pity on me, giving me a bracelet. It said ‘Delicate’.

On the way in we got one more bracelet with a battery powered light to wear during the show. I had heard about those, but had never been to a concert where I got one. Bought a T-shirt, found my seat and then went to the toilet repeatedly, nervous I would not make it through the entire show otherwise. 😉 I was ready though and my side stage seat gave me a nice view of the catwalk. The main stage was not visible for me, but they had provide a huge screen on our side, so I#d be able to see everything. My excitement grew and I kept busy watching videos and behind the scenes films they showed on the screen. Until then I had no idea, Taylor Swift directed her own videos, but she des. Wow.

At 18:20 support act Paramore took the stage and they wer great. I had heard of them, but didn’t really know their music and was happily surprised. It was so much fun. They had some fans in the audience too, singing along and Hayley Williams, the singer struck up a conversation with a woman in the crowd who had a banner about the day being her birthday. She was wearing a Paramore shirt and we learned that she’d been a fan for a long time. I also learned that Haley and Taylor have been friends for years. All in all they were the perfect warm up for the show to come and kept telling us how much they liked making new friends (i.e. meeting new audiences) on this tour.

Setlist

Hard Times (extended intro; with snippet of “Heart of Glass by Blondie)
Burning Down the House (Talking Heads cover)
Still Into You
Forgiveness
Told You So
The Only Exception
Misery Business
Ain’t It Fun
This Is Why

One more run to the bathroom, one more video on the big screen and it was time. We saw a big countdown clock for the last three minutes and everyone cheered. The last ten seconds were counted down by however many people fit into the arena. With the first notes, we all jumped up and went quiet as we watched dancers walk out on the catwalk with huge fans attached to their bodies. It looked beautiful  I felt so happy to be there I had tears in my eyes and she wasn’t even on stage yet. Blocks of the stage raised up from the floor and there was Taylor, saying hello. The response was deafening.

The first song was part of ‘Miss Americana & the Hearbreak Prince’ and everyone was already singing along. It turned into ‘Cruel Summer’ and after the second chorus she asked “Does anyone here know the bridge to this song?” – the answer was affirmative so she continued “prove it!”. I felt a bit like an impostor, because I must have been the only one in that stadium, who could not sing along. 😀 I already loved everything about the show.

Taylor told us we were making them all feel absolutely amazing and that we got her feeling really powerful, like ‘The Man’. All the dancers were in suits, some sitting at desks and she had on a glittery jacket. All her outfits were gorgeous and everything was wonderfully choreographed. What a show! ‘You need to calm down’ followed and afterwards she asked who was from Amsterdam and who had traveled to see the show, then thanked us for giving up our Friday night to hang out with her. The honor is all mine. She thanked Paramore for supporting and told us we were going to get to hear 18 years worth of music, sog about her life, her feelings and things she made up.

The ‘Lover’ part of the show ended with that song and all of the dancers and backup singers joining her on the platforms on the catwalk. There were a bunch of those, moving up and down, however needed, forming stairs or a solid platform or small towers. It must have been during that song, that our light wristbands formed hearts across the stadium, while before they had made waves of different colors. It was perfection.

For ‘Fearless’ everything turned golden, from Taylor’s dress, to much of the lighting. She gave us the title song of the album, ‘You belong with me’, with everyone singing along loudly and finally ‘Love Story’, where all the guitar players in the band joined her on the platform. It was awesome.

The Red’ era started with an intro from tape, so everyone could get changed. Taylor came out with an oversized shirt saying “This is not Taylors version” and a hat. For the first time that night she came over to our side of the stage and sang to us. The dancers and band member on that side turned to us from time to time as well.

As she walked out on the catwalk during ’22’, the big screen started showing a young girl, standing at the end of it. She might have been about ten and the look on her face said she could not believe that Taylor was walking towards here. Not only that, when she arrived, Taylor hugged her and put the hat on her head. She looked so happy and everyone cheered for her. I briefly wondered, how she got there in the first place, since she was directly at the catwalk, not behind the barrier. Security must have been involved in getting her there. It was a wonderful moment. <3

‘We are never getting back together’ also offered another great sing along and dancer Kameron Saunders adding “in je dromen!” (in your dreams) to great cheers. I loved ‘I knew you were trouble’, because it is one of the few songs I sorta know. Each song was beautiful though and amazing to watch. I hardly knew where to look much of the time, there was a lot going on.

Taylor asked us if we were enjoying the red era so far and told us how she had made so many great memories over the years , but didn’t get the chance to bring each tour to every country. She wanted to play us one more song from ‘Red’ if we had about ten minutes. Even I knew what was coming. Before the show I was asked which song I was looking forward to the most and it felt like a cliche, but ‘All too well’ is the one. To get the 10 minute version was an absolute treat and made me tear up. I have to mention that Taylor looked gorgeous in her glitter outfit with the glittering black guitar. I also have to mention that despite singing her heart out, she still kept an eye on the audience and directed the arena staff to someone in the crowd who needed help. <3

We got a tape intro to ‘Speak now’ and watched the dancers performing beautifully until Taylor came out again for s short version of ‘Enchanted’. Next we saw snake projections slithering across the big screen and the catwalk floor – it looked very cool. Then we heard heels clack on the intro to ‘…Ready for it’ – hell yeah! ‘Delicate’, the song from my bracelet followed. I loved all the songs from Reputation and the outfits. The lighting was beautiful too, with projected candles during ‘Don’t blame me’. However, it’s the only album I don’t own (because there is no Taylor’s version yet) and I know these songs least. That did not keep me from enjoying them though.’Look what you made me do’ was powerful and had all the dancers in glass cages. Great finale to that era.

The stage got dark and trees were growing from the floor. The screens showed a cabin with a mossy roof and Taylor on top of it, singing ‘cardigan’. Afterwards she was inside the cabin with her guitar and told us they brought the folklore cabin. She spoke about this era being different from everything she had done before, because for the first time she wrote about characters she made up instead of her own life. It was also written during Covid and writing songs was her escape. For a moment she stoppe her speech and asked someone in the audience if they needed help (they didn’t), then thanked all the venue staff for being on top of things. A great version of ‘Betty’ followed and made me think of Grace Petrie – if you know you know. The singers joined her at the cabin and made the song even better.

Taylor sat down at the piano, then told us about the sister album to ‘evermore, ‘folklore’ and how she wrote them back to back, wondering if she was ever going to get to play this music live, concluding that she was unbelievably overjoyed to get to sing ‘champagne problems’ with us. It was beautiful and the cheering went on for a long time. She continued with ‘august and ‘Illicit affairs’, before giving us a beautiful version of ‘my tears ricochet’. ‘marjorie’ followed and for ‘willow’ all the dancers and singers were wearing hooded capes and carrying lamps – it looked gorgeous in the dark arena.

At the end of the song, she disappeared into the stage to reappear in a new outfit for ‘Style’. Around this time I checked my watch and learned we were just about two hours in. Many artists I know are done in 90 minutes and her show was far from over. 😀 ‘Blank Space’ was lots of fun with many Taylors projected on the platform and the dancers riding around on glow in the dark bicycles. I loved ‘Shake it off’ too, if mostly for being one of the few songs I can sing along to. 😉 Watching Taylor and the dancers shake it was fun too. I loved the “hella good hair” bit, because one of the long haired dancers really shook it and it looked so cool. ‘Wildest Dreams’ and ‘Bad Blood’ ended the 1989 era.

With the last taped intro for the night we had arrived at ‘The Tortured Poets Department’. ‘But Daddy I love him’ into ‘So High School’ was first and I admired Taylor’s dress with lots of writing on it. I enjoyed watching her and the dancers all night. It was a well choreographed show. The platform on the catwalk had turned to stairs and the images on the screens turned black & white which went well with the songs. For ‘who’s afraid of little old me’ the platform moved back and forth across the catwalk as if it was floating – amazing. It kept floating for ‘Down Bad’ and the screen showed a  UFO, ready to beam her up. 🙂

‘Fortnight’ had a huge bed being moved on the catwalk, with chairs on it and typewriters. Taylor and one of the dancers sat down there, before moving around the bed that tilted and later off of it. They ended up on aforementioned stairs, divided by a trench. I enjoyed all of this so much. For ‘The smallest Man who ever lived’ all the dancers had small drum they beat until they all “dropped dead” on stage towards the end starting around the “you crashed my party and your rental car” line. Very cool.

At the very end, she “dropped dead” too and was carried to a sofa by two dancers, where she woke up and changed into a new outfit with their help, then started “I can do it with a broken heart”, while the sofa disappeared below stage. The dancers, all with black frocks and top hats, followed her around with large, white, feather fans. In the end of the song they lifted her up, then set her back down and surrounded her with the fans. When she reappeared, she was wearing a stunning blue dress.

Taylor told us that the next part was her favorite, because it differed every night. she would now perform one acoustic song o the guitar and one on the piano, the first being one she had never played live before. For the Swifties this was heaven, but to me every song was new. The first song was gonna be one she had never played live before. It was ‘imgonnagetyouback’ mashed up with ‘Dress’ and it was amazing. She played this at the very front of the catwalk and I thought she was gonna have to walk back to the main stage for song  2, but she had a piano at the front too, beautifully decorated with painted flowers. Once she sat there, she told us how all the bike riders in Amsterdam were cool and played ‘You are in Love’ mashed up with ‘cowboy like me’ – it as lovely. I watched her on the screen and all the lights from our wristbands lighting up the arena in different colors.

When the acoustic set was over, she jumped into water below the stage and swam underneath it to the other end  or at least that’s what it looked like. To the intro of ‘Lavender Haze’ we saw clouds and she reappeared among them. The theme continued with the dancers carrying clouds across stage too. For ‘Anti Hero’ she came to our side of the stage again and sang to us. It made me happpy that she did it during a song I actually know well enough to sing along to. <3

‘Midnight Rain’ had rain projections on the screens and the platform with all the dancers bringing umbrellas. ‘Vigilante Shit’ involved sexy dancing on chairs, which looked amazing, ‘Bejeweled’ had everyone in blue, glittery clothes and ‘Mastermind’ turned the whole catwalk into a game board in black and white. I can only repeat just how wonderful the choreography and the dancers were.

As the song ended she bowed, thanked us and told us she had one more song for us. It was ‘Karma’ and everyone sang along. The dancers were wearing all colors of the rainbow and confetti filled the air at the end. She thanked us again and asked us to cheer for her band and dancers too. It was he perfect finale! When they had walked off stage, the music kept playing and each member of the band and dancers was introduced on the big screens with a picture and their name. I loved that! Since we were at the side of the stage, we even saw her walk out at the end and she and Travis Kelce waved goodbye to us. What a fantastic night this had been. I still smiled the day after.

The band:

Mike Meadows: guitar, keyboards, cello, harmonica, mandolin, vocals
Max Bernstein: guitar, keyboards, pedal steel
Paul Sidoti: guitar and vocals
Amos Heller: bass
Matthew Billingslea: drums
Karina dePiano: piano

The Choir:

Melania Nyema
Kamilah Marshall
Jeslyn Gorman
Eliotte Woodford

The Dancers:

Amanda Balen
Tori Evans
Audrey Douglass
Jan Ravnik
Taylor Banks
Sydney Moss
Natalie Lacznar
Whyley Yoshimura
Raphael Thomas
Kevin Scheitzbach
Kameron Saunders
Natalie Peterson
Tamiya Lewis
Sam Mcwilliams
Karen Chuang

Setlist

– Lover
Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince (shortened)
Cruel Summer (extended outro)
The Man (spoken intro)
You Need to Calm Down (shortened)
Lover (spoken intro; extended outro)

– Fearless
Fearless (shortened)
You Belong With Me
Love Story

– Red
Tape: Red – Intro (contains elements of “State of Grace”, “Holy Ground” and “Red”)
22
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (Kam Saunders: “in je dromen!” – Dutch for “in your dreams”)
I Knew You Were Trouble (shortened)
All Too Well (10 Minute Version; spoken intro)

– Speak Now
Tape: Speak Now – Intro (contains elements of “Castles Crumbling”)
Enchanted (shortened)

– Reputation
…Ready for It?
Delicate
Don’t Blame Me (shortened)
Look What You Made Me Do (extended outro)

– folklore / evermore
cardigan (shortened)
betty (spoken intro; shortened)
champagne problems (spoken intro)
august
illicit affairs (shortened)
my tears ricochet
marjorie (shortened)
willow(extended)

– 1989
Style (shortened)
Blank Space
Shake It Off
Wildest Dreams (shortened)
Bad Blood (shortened)

– THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT
Tape: Female Rage: The Musical (contains elements of “MBOBHFT”, “WAOLOM”, “loml”, “So Long, London” and “BDILH”)
But Daddy I Love Him / So High School
Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me? (shortened)
Down Bad (shortened; with “Fortnight” outro)
Fortnight
The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived (shortened)
I Can Do It With a Broken Heart (extended intro)

-Surprise Songs
imgonnagetyouback / Dress (spoken intro; mashup on guitar; live debut for “imgonnagetyouback”)
You Are in Love / cowboy like me (mashup on piano)

– Midnights
Lavender Haze
Anti‐Hero
Midnight Rain
Vigilante Shit
Bejeweled
Mastermind
Karma (“guy on the Chiefs” lyric; extended outro)

I am the phoenix and the ash

Dessa – Colours, London; May 19th, 2024

After my first Dessa show in Manchester, I was so glad I had opted for seeing her twice. I didn’t think it was possible, but this second show upped it a notch. It was a ton of fun and I loved every minute of it.

Sleeping on the night bus from Manchester didn’t make me feel well rested when I arrived, but I got there early and got a few more hours in London. I was happy I had nothing else planned for the day, so I slept late, got some good food and finally made my way to the venue which was part of a pub. Got a drink, sat down and watched more people arrive. Another fan joined me at my table and we chatted before getting in line five minutes before the doors open. I wish front row was always so easy. I looked around if I saw any familiar faces from the previous day, but didn’t spot anyone, so I chatted with the people around me, got some merch and another drink.

Begonia surprised me with a completely different outfit from the previous one and started with telling us she only had 30 minutes to play. ‘Juniper’ was her first song an I enjoyed her set just as much as in Manchester. Her singing is very particular, but also very cool. She continued with ‘Heaven’ and then told us how she distanced herself from the church when she was an awkward teenager and realized being different wasn’t going away. The song was ‘Marigold’ and I really liked it. ‘Butterfly’ was great too, my favorite of her set. I smiled at the story of ‘Hot Dog stand’ and then she ended with ‘It’s too quiet’.

Setlist

Juniper
Heaven
Marigold
Butterfly
Hot Dog Stand
It’s too quiet

We got a break as he room filled up and everyone was excited for Dessa. She kicked off the show with ‘Warsaw’ / ‘Chime’ / ‘Velodrome’ all mashed up and it was awesome. I noticed a woman to my left typing all the songs into her phone – I guess I have her to thank for the setlist I found on setlist.fm – once the song ended we all erupted into great cheers, even more so when Dessa told us she was terribly excited to be there. She explained how she had been there a lot when she worked on a programme for the BBC and how great if felt to return.

‘Decoy’ was next and someone was screaming along to the “Sorry, not sorry” line. I looked around a many people knew all the words. Wow! It became even more obvious with ‘Rome’ where I felt like I was the only person who didn’t know the lyrics. The backing vocals of Aviva and Joshua blended nicely with the ones from the crowd. Soon the song merged with ‘Call off your Ghost’ and I just enjoyed the experience of being there.

Dessa introduced us to Joshua and Aviva and then thanked Hugh, the audience member who lend them a keyboard stand, before continuing with ‘Skeleton Key’. <3 ‘Fighting Fish’ was awesome, with a great ing-along. Afterwards she declared that she could not open a can of water (?) at the same time as holding the microphone and then requested a bobby pin to keep her hair out of her face. The best thing about it was that she gave it back at the end of the show.

‘Terry Gross’ was great and the “I don’t need a drink menu, I’ll take a white wine got extra cheers. I personally love the one about having to make sure that you’re not a robot before continuing the conversation. 😀 Afterwards she talked about trying to collect as many British phrases as possible when she worked for the BBC, speaking about feeling cosmopolitan when ordering a “packet of crisps” and asking about the term for being sick. “Poorly? Americans don’t have adverbs.” There was also talk about LemSip for a sore cold. 😀 “Let’s play a tragic song,” she explained before launching into ‘Good Grief’. I loved it, especially the harmony singing.

Dessa joked that she was studying the habits of popstars, which somehow lead to talking about contact lenses and dedicating the poem ‘Acuvue’ to “my near sighted friends”. It was brilliant! The acoustic set was next so it was time to be “hella quiet”. We got the wonderful ‘Crash’ first, with Aviva on harp, which is somehow saved in my mind as “Partycrasher”. She joked about sending a rider and then having the need for harp input on there. 🙂  Then we got a lovely stripped down version of ‘Blush’ with great keyboard lines and harmonies.

“I don’t wanna go!” Dessa exclaimed and someone yelled back “don’t leave!”. She introduced us to Becky at merch and gave us news from the merch booth as in “we can’t take all that shit home on the plane – please buy some merch”. Also Beth and Joshua were looking for a place to watch a game at 1 am, but I have no idea what the team name that was or which sport. They were looking for someone with “a fancy ass sports package”. I hope they found someone.

‘I already like you was great, including Joshua on saxophone. ‘Chopper’ was the first song she had not played the previous night and it was fantastic. During ‘Shrimp’ Joshua told us that the previous night had been the first time he had played in Manchester and how crazy it was. Then someone told him “Wait till you see London” – now he wanted to know what we had and everyone around me yelled “always the bridesmaid, never an astronaut”. 😀

‘Tell me again’ brought us some more cool saxophone and everyone was clapping along. The cheering reached a whole new level after. Dessa told us how Joshua is a multi instrumentalist and what other instruments he plays and how she had a whiteboard, drawing out how he could play more than one instrument during the set.

‘Hurricane Party’ was awesome and it felt like the crowd was really warmed up now. ‘5 out of 6’ followed and while I was filming, Dessa grabbed my phone, looked down the camera and then turned it around to film the audience for a moment before she gave it back. <3 She told us how easy it is to get frustrated with the current state of the music industry and while she loves big arena acts, she feels there should be room for the weird shit too. Hell yes!

“One more emo poem and then we’ll play some more,” Dessa announced and told us to move closer before reading us  ‘How to stage dive’, including a thank you to Tobia the soundperson. I loved it even more than the previous night. Afterwards, she decided to stage dive during ‘The Bullpen’ – it worked out well and as predicted, she was delivered back to the stage when it was time.

A great version of ‘Dixion’s girl’ ended the main set and then we din’t get only one, but two encores, the first of which was the awesome ‘Fire Drill’. we cheered so loudly and so long that they returned for  ‘Jumprope’ into ‘Grade School Games’. It was the perfect ending to a perfect show. I was so happy I had decided to go and see it.

Afterwards I considered getting an autograph, but didn’t know how long the tube was running in my direction, so I left instead, deciding that it was better to get some sleep. I just will have to go back and see Dessa again.

Setlist

Warsaw / Chime / Velodrome
Decoy
Rome / Call Off Your Ghost
Skeleton Key
Fighting Fish
Terry Gross
Good Grief
Poetry Reading (‘Acuvue’)
Crash (Acoustic)
Blush (Acoustic)
I Already Like You
Chopper
Shrimp
Tell Me Again
Hurricane Party
5 Out of 6
Poetry Reading (‘How To Stage Dive’)
The Bullpen (Started but unfinished; Dessa chose to stage dive instead)
Dixon’s Girl

Fire Drills (Encore)
Jumprope / Grade School Games (Encore)