For about four minutes on Friday night, Taylor Swift made almost everyone in the Allstate Arena feel 15 years old.
That's the power of a song. When Swift played her latest hit, "Fifteen," the sold-out crowd seemed mesmerized by the nostalgia country music's "It" girl created with just her voice, a guitar and lyrics about what it feels like to be just old enough to get your heart broken.
Singing from a small stage in the back of the arena floor halfway through her set, she pulled the already rapt audience into her world: one where boys shouldn't do bad things, fairy tales still come true and love happens.
And one where country music reigns. Swift opened her two-hour set with the rocker "You Belong with Me," complete with all the trimmings of an arena pop show -- six well-choreographed cheerleaders, heavy guitars and Swift in a marching band costume. But with the banjo and fiddle front and center, the song came off as country as country gets.
So did the other 16 tunes Swift and her backing band nailed on the first show of her two-night stay in Chicago. "We've played a lot of places since April, but there is only one city where I knew I'd have to play twice," she said.
The cadence of the show was paced well for the thousands of entry-level concertgoers. A couple of songs, then some chatting with the crowd, another song, a little storytelling and then a few more songs. And when it came time for Swift to change dresses (which she did seven times), she provided entertainment in the form of star-studded videos and instrumental solos from the band.
The set list was packed with all of Swift's biggies. Boy-bashing songs such as "White Horse," "Forever & Always" and "Tell Me Why" played well with young love tunes "Our Song," "Fearless" and "Hey Stephen." Then Swift took to the grand piano on "You're Not Sorry," giving it a theatrical, rock-opera vibe, with an unexpected interlude of Justin Timberlake's "What Goes Around ... Comes Around" nestled in the middle.
While a handful of Swift's littlest fans left the show early, presumably to make it home by bedtime, the crew's enthusiasm never waned. Their reward was getting to see the ultimate finish on the last song. A sheet of rain poured on Swift as she sang the end of "Should've Said No," soaking wet, on her knees.
Chicago Country Music Festival