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Concert Review: Taylor Swift sizzles at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami

Taylor Swift performs in Miami for her 1989 World Tour. Photo: Vladimir Lorenzo
Taylor Swift performs in Miami for her 1989 World Tour. Photo: Vladimir Lorenzo

Taylor Swift’s visually extravagant 1989 World Tour opened with her sparkly 1989 anthem, “Welcome to New York”, replete with visuals touchstones like Broadway and West 42nd Street signage. But sister city Miami bumped its storied northern neighbor to also-ran status with countless Only in Miami moments.

From the “surprise guest” appearances by Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, Pitbull (“Mr. 305” whose smash “Give Me Everything” turned into a frisky duet) and Ricky Martin (with whom she sang a rousing “Livin’ La Vida Loca”) to fans toting signs that rewrote the lyrics to 1989’s opener as “Welcome to Miami/It’s been waiting for you,” Swift’s two-hour epic concert before 14,000 people at a sold-out AmericanAirlines Arena was a love letter to Miami.

“Today is the day my album ‘1989’ is one year old,” the lanky Swift said of the year’s best-selling pop album. “I wanted to have a big party but where should we go for that? Let’s go to Miami for that!”

Swift, whose tuneful songs function as wise and supportive telegraphs from the smarter, kinder older sister her fans wish they all had, then bestowed the coveted “super crowd” honor on her Miami fans. This distinction is for our ability to “scream louder” and “sing louder” than the norm, which, in this superstar’s case, is pitched slightly above the roar at a 1964 Beatles concert. (Ask your grandparents.)

“Super crowds have endless energy,” Swift cheerfully announced as she teased her rewards for such devotion: surprise guest stars. As if already putting on the best, most creatively staged and imagined pop tour wasn’t reward enough.

First up, after a gothy, stomping “I Knew You Were Trouble”: Miami Heat guard Wade, who presented a beaming Swift with a No. 13 Miami Heat jersey and thanked her for serving as his inspiration for the work he does with children. “I’ve played here for 13 years and I’ve never heard it this loud,” he said. “Normally, I call this my house but tonight it’s your house.”

Dwyane Wade presents Taylor Swift with a Miami Heat jersey.

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Swift returned the love-fest, noting that Wednesday night at the same venue Wade plays in the Heat’s home opener. “Can I get my 14,000 people to say, ‘Good luck, Dwyane?’”

Of course, Super Crowd, many dressed in glow-in-the-dark dresses, angel wings, “Shake It Off” hair ribbons and hoisting “Tay” and “1989” placards, responded in kind.

Swift generates such passion from fans that range from preschoolers to grandparents, who seemed thrilled to bask amid all the positivity, because she seems genuinely one of them. There isn’t a pop star today near Swift’s placement in the cultural firmament. She sells more albums than anyone in a market that has largely abandoned the format. Her tours print money. Her life is an open book. Six years before Swift’s birth on Dec. 13, 1989, the classic rock band Kansas released a track called “Everybody’s My Friend”.

Everybody seems to be Swift’s friend, too.

Throughout her concert Tuesday night, Swift ran video messages featuring some of her BFFs like Lena Dunham, Hailee Steinfeld, Lily Aldridge and Gigi Hadid who all offered daily affirmation life lessons to female empowerment, respect and friendship.

“You are not the opinion of someone who doesn’t know you!,” Swift counseled after she noted the pitfalls of modern technology: namely, anonymous readers’ comments on Internet posts. “The hardest part for me with this technology is they can ruin your day and never have to see your face when you read it.”

Yet Swift, who has more than 65 million followers on Twitter, embraces social media to reach out to her fans in big sister fashion. She’s used the sites to invite fans over for private listening parties at her houses, the sharing of baked goods (one of her passions) and to meet her beloved cats, Olivia Benson and the crankier fluff puff Meredith Grey, who got to star in their own video during the tour. “No cats were hurt in the making of this tour. Just one pop star,” a video title card read after Meredith was seen nipping Swift.

“I can check you out on Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr and that’s one of my favorite parts of existing in 2015. I can see what’s going on in your life,” Swift said.

Stalker-like? Not in this case.

Ditto the white plastic bracelet that fans found taped to each seat pre-show, which was opened by an engaging 30-minute set by Aussie guitar strummer Vance Joy. The bracelets — controlled by who knows, the Great and Almighty Oz behind some curtain, perhaps — collectively glowed from white to pink to blue to green or flickered on and off in tempo to a particular song. The bracelets were the star’s way to “see” all of her fans. When others spout platitudes from the stage about loving their fans, it almost always feels forced and disingenuous. Not so with Swift. She uncannily and naturally seems to connect with every one of the 14,000 who gather before her.

That’s called craft and talent. Take away the brilliant staging (but please don’t). Overlook the scrumptious lighting — to die for on a rain-swept stage for “How You Get the Girl” that found Swift in Lite-Brite polka dot dress amid her 12 dancers who twirled neon umbrellas, or the cinematic visuals for “Out of the Woods”, or the spinning, near floor-length catwalk in the explosive closer, “Shake It Off”.

Even downplay the appeal of her traditionally-written, diary-like songs millions have committed to memory.

What it all comes down to is Swift’s ability to entertain, to connect with a live audience, to transcend a lost art in most of today’s prepackaged megatours.

To quote the title from a hit by one of her “surprise guest stars” on her previous Red Tour: Nobody does it better.