In some ways, the scene was reminiscent of nights one and two. Ornate costumes themed to each era of Swift’s career were everywhere. A birthday girl wore a sash to mark the occasion. Someone in the lower bowl was completely covered in pink Christmas lights. And there were countless outfits that quoted lyrics (including a little Swiftie wearing one that said, “screaming, crying, perfect storms” on a shirt’s blank space).
In others, it was different (shout out to the dad wearing a The National shirt with a mustard stain on it.)
And save for the addition of “Don’t Blame Me,” and two surprise songs—”Mad Woman,” with The National’s Aaron Dessner on piano, and the first live performance of “Mean” since 2018—Saturday’s setlist also didn’t stray far what fans have seen in cities like Glendale, Las Vegas and Arlington.
But the last dance in Tampa was unique from the two before it in a way that fans likely won’t soon forget.
Saturday saw only 614 more people at Raymond James than Thursday—and brought Swift’s three-day attendance total in Tampa to a staggering 206,459—but it sounded like there was an extra bowl’s worth of bodies in the stadium.
After screams pierced the sky as the sun set, Swift directly acknowledged the volume before “Lover,” when she told 69,131 of the luckiest ones in Tampa that they’d reached uncharted levels of “vibes, and screaming, and fashion."
“I think what we have on our hands tonight, Tampa, is a supercrowd,” she concluded.
Before “Mean” in the surprise song part of the set, she said, “The vocal talent, it’s deafening, it’s just so loud, and that makes it so fun for us.”
She wasn’t lying. Fun and carefree were two prominent moods during the three-hour-15-minute performance. Swift is undoubtedly always confident onstage during concerts, but there were several extra layers of joy in her movements from the get go.
On “Cruel Summer,” she pirouetted as if she didn’t have to be on her feet for 42 more numbers. At least twice in the set, through that trademark red lipstick and beaming white smile, she playfully (and spontaneously?) stuck her tongue out at the crowd (first on “The Man” and then after the “And he never thinks of me Except for when I'm on TV” lyric on “Midnight Rain”). The hair flips on “Look What You Made Me Do” almost felt feral, and tassels on her gold dress shimmered as she spun like a kid in a rainstorm during “Fearless,” where she pointed straight at the stage as she sang, “And I don't know how it gets better than this.”
Swift was just 18 years old when that song, the title track from an album that won four Grammys, came out. And despite the growth she’s experienced since, Saturday night saw Swift meet her wide-eyed fans with the same kind of innocence from that era.
On “You Belong With Me,” longtime guitarist Paul Sidoti was beaming in an ear-to-ear smile as his boss laughed while leaning on bassist Amos Heller as she belted out, “Hey, isn't this easy?”
Dancer Jan Ravnik was soaked in sweat during the Red block where Swift gave her hat to a fan on “22,” grabbed their hand and blew a kiss. Another dancer, Kameron Saunders, almost stole the song, once on “Style” and again when he took a solo on “Bejeweled.”
In short, Swift, along with everyone else in the stadium, was on fire.
The only time the crowd ever really hushed was on non-singing passages from Evermore and Folklore cuts like “Cardigan,” as fans hung on to every note, just waiting for Swift to come back to the microphone so they could sing along again.
Swift’s Tampa finale felt like the kind of set an artist plays on the last date of a tour that marks the end of a fruitful career. But at 33 years old—despite 17 years of music behind her—Swift is just entering her prime and absolutely dominating the post-pandemic touring game, with no one even coming close. What’s more is that based on the hordes of super-young fans in the audience, a new generation of Swifties is ready to grow up with the back catalog, and whatever comes next, guiding them to adulthood.
So that’s the big question Tampa fans were left with as the smoke from the post-”Karma” fireworks faded into the humid night. What is next?
In a podcast interview released just months before his death, the late-Laker great Kobe Bryant pushed back when host Jordan Harbinger suggested that he wouldn’t have an artist like Swift on in his car.
“I do,” Bryant said, adding that it’s important to listen to people who do great things.
The Black Mamba noted how long Swift has been on top of the game, and wondered how, and why, she does it. He more or less begged to get into her headspace in the writing room, talked about the challenges of re-inventing yourself, and the pressure of having to be better than your last time on the playing field. The pressure to follow a No. 1 album with an even superior one, Bryant suggested, is unimaginable.
“I don't care if you like her music or if you don't like the music. Look at what she's doing—that's frightening stuff. It's unbelievable to be able to pull that off over and over and over and over,” he said. “I look at things like that, and try to learn from her as much as I can.”
Swift fans have learned to dissect easter eggs in their hero’s movements. Their devotion is almost unrivaled, with Swift tipping her cap to the effort before "Mad Woman."
"It's more than dancing, what you're doing," she said, adding that the song helped her get a lot off her chest. "You're doing the most, which is really the only amount I have respect for."
But only she truly knows what’s over the horizon or when she’s going to get there. Whatever, and whenever, it is, you can bet that her followers will be there—loud, hot and ready as ever—to cheer her along.
Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince
You Need To Calm Down
You Belong With Me
‘Tis The Damn Season
…Ready For It?
Don’t Blame Me
Look What You Made Me Do
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
I Knew You Were Trouble
All Too Well
The Last Great American Dynasty
My Tears Ricochet
Shake It Off
Wildest Dreams 35
UPDATED 4/16/23 5:23 p.m Updated with additional quotes from the sho, a dancer's name, 'Fearless' Grammy wins, and big up to the dad wearing a The National shirt with a mustard stain on it.