Taylor Swift’s Fans Spoke to the Tune of Nearly $1 Million
Taylor Swift fans came out in droves Saturday night to watch the superstar in action during the last dress rehearsal for the North American leg of her Speak Now World tour, and at the same time, they were helping the victims of the devastating tornadoes that ripped through the Southeast in April.
More than $750,000 was raised from ticket sales alone; tickets were priced at $50.00 each. In addition, the reigning Academy of Country Music's Entertainer of the Year told the audience during the show that all proceeds from ticket sales, tour merchandise, and donations will be going to tornado victims.
Fans began lining up nearly 24 hours before the show was set to start, having erected tents and blowup mattresses, hoping to be among the first ones in the door at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena and catch a glimpse of the superstar on stage for the general admission show.
At the special event, titled Speak Now ... Help Now!, approximately 13,000 people got the chance to see Taylor's full show during her final dress rehearsal, one week before the North American leg of the superstar's Speak Now world trek kicks off Friday (May 27) with a two-night stand in Omaha, Neb.
"I was watching the coverage of the tornadoes backstage at rehearsals, and I wanted to do something for the families affected by the damage," says Taylor. "I've never opened a rehearsal to the public before, but I felt that inviting my fans to the last rehearsal for the Speak Now tour would be a great way to raise money."
Numerous tornadoes raged through seven states in the south, including the hardest hit, Alabama, killing more than 329 people and literally destroying numerous businesses, schools and home.
"The original idea for the Speak Now ... Help Now [show] came when we were rehearsing for the Speak Now tour, and one of my dancers who lives in Alabama came in and showed all of us a picture of a cyclone in her backyard, and we were just floored. Then we turned on the news and were watching the coverage," says Taylor. "I just felt like if there was any way I could help with the damage done and all of the families who have lost their homes, then I had to think of one. It came to me really quickly that here we are at a rehearsal in an arena where there are empty seats, what if we filled those empty seats and gave all the proceeds to the victims of the tornadoes?"
When the concert attendees entered the building, they were given Taylor Swift autographed glow sticks, and when they made their way to their respective seats, they found their commemorative red shirt, complete with the Speak Now ... Help Now logo, draped over the chairs.
At 7:30 PM exactly, newcomer Adam Brand and three other musicians made their way through the curtain to the front of the stage where microphones were set up. The Sony Nashville artist performed a handful of acoustic songs, including his single 'Ready for Love.' Adam is set to open a handful of dates for Taylor this fall.
A brief intermission ensued, and Taylor's mom, Andrea, father, Scott, and best friend, Abigail, were seen making their way to the back of the arena to take their seats near the sound board. Exactly at 8:05 PM, the lights went down, a video played with Taylor's voice talking about some of the same topics featured on her current album, 'Speak Now.'
The red curtain at the front of the stage opens revealing her band and her stage set, which looks like a turn-of-the-century theater. There are stairs, a gilded gazebo and through the lighting grid above the stage, you can see many other set pieces that will ultimately be lowered during the rest of her show.
All of a sudden, Taylor shoots up from underneath the stage amidst smoke and glitz, along with some carefully placed pyrotechnics, to land at the front of the stage, her blond locks flowing and wearing a gold sparkly above-the-knee gold sparkly dress and black knee-high boots to sing 'Sparks Fly.' Three gigantic video screens graced the stage, including two on either side of the stage, as well as one behind the band that was utilized for animation, videos and behind-the-scenes look at her previous tour moments.
Taylor followed the opening number with 'Mine,' and it felt as though she were singing the line, "You're the best thing that's ever been mine," straight to the screaming fans in the crowd. She then addressed the audience and thanked them for coming.
"Good Evening, Nashville, Tennessee. I'm Taylor. [screams ] Welcome to the last Speak Now dress rehearsal. You have never looked more beautiful. Thanks for hanging out with us tonight," the singer begins. "This night was originally planned as our last dress rehearsal before our Speak Now North American tour kicked off, which would've meant it would've been us on this stage doing this for an empty arena, and I like it much better this way. What changed all of it was one day we were at rehearsal and we turned on the news and we saw that our beloved friends and neighbors in the Southeast were losing their homes, losing their loved ones, losing everything due to tornadoes. I felt like if it was possible that there was any way we could help them, that we should do it. All proceeds tonight -- T-shirts, merch, tickets, everything -- will be going to the victims of the tornadoes. We don't have the final tally yet, but we do know based from ticket sales alone, you have raised over $750,000. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart for being with us tonight. I cannot tell you what a difference you are making to the lives of our loved ones in the Southeast."
The country songstress explained the term Speak Now could mean many things, including bursting into a church to stop a wedding from taking place or "confessing you are secretly in love with someone." She had one question for the appreciative audience, when she said she had gathered all of her favorite people in Nashville to tell them her stories, "Are you ready?" The crowd screamed, "Yes!"
Climbing the stairs on stage to stand near the gazebo and revealing her choreographed dancers, she launched into 'Story of Us,' followed by a set change to a front porch stage holding a single banjo. One of her dancers dressed in faded garb holding a broom, tap danced across the stage before finding old theater switches, and one by one he flipped them to turn on the lights on stage, reveal a spotlight on the banjo, and then revealing Taylor who popped up from the front of the stage in her 'Mean' attire. She picks up the banjo and begins playing 'Our Song,' and the rest of the band follows to position themselves on the front porch.
When the applause subsided, she stated to the audience, "You guys are incredible! You are so nice ... you know, some people aren't quite as nice as you," before kicking into her single, 'Mean.' Her dancers came back out to enact scenes from rural imagery.
A quick set change follows, with an ornate bridge descending from up above, with "snow" confetti falling from the ceiling. Taylor dressed in an ice-blue gown while seated at a grand piano arises from underneath the stage to perform her hit, 'Back to December.' The lighting changes to red, the blue dress is gone and a red sequined short dress is being sported by the 21-year-old superstar. She pretended to get in a fight with one of her backup singers to the song, 'Better than Revenge.'
The moving pieces on stage reminded the concert attendees of a life-sized doll house, and the next set change was that of a church, complete with pews, a preacher and church music. A beautiful bride and her bridesmaids were lifted up through the stage to "walk down the aisle" to her waiting groom on her way to get married ... that is, until Taylor interrupts the ceremony with the title track of her latest multi-platinum album, 'Speak Now.'
She runs off with the groom and skips through the energetic crowd to the back where a small stage containing a lighted tree was set up. She sported a ukulele, which she told the crowd she got in Hawaii a few years ago. She explained the instrument made the happiest sound, and it was so little and so cute that you can only play it on happy songs. She performed 'Fearless' and 'Last Kiss,' and then as she made her way back to the main stage, 'You Belong With Me,' along with a cacophony of backup singers in the form of the fans matching Taylor word-for-word.
The screams and shouts of "We love you, Taylor," seemed to so overwhelm the star, it looked as though tears formed in her eyes and she mouthed to the crowd, "I love you."
Pyro and roman candles accentuated 'Dear John,' while a ballet broke out during 'Enchanted.' Three bells were lowered onto the stage and Taylor, along with her background singers banged on them, and as the bells were lifted, acrobats, who looked as though they were straight out of Cirque du Soleil, dropped from the bells accomplishing elaborate routines to the tune of 'Haunted.'
During the two-hour show, Taylor played multiple instruments, including acoustic and electric guitars, ukulele, piano and banjo.
She closed the show with 'Long Live,' which she wrote as a thank you to her fans. She came back out for an encore to perform 'Fifteen' and 'Love Story,' in which she entered the "balcony" basket and flew around the arena. At the end, the thunderous applause kept the singer onstage to bask in the joyous admiration from an appreciative audience.
If fans were not able to attend the show, they are able to go to Taylor's official website to make a donation through the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
Following the special event on Saturday night, the 21-year-old superstar flew to Los Angeles to attend Sunday's (May 22) Billboard Music Awards where she took home trophies for Album Artist and Country Artist of the Year.
Having "rehearsed" her show in front of a hometown crowd, Taylor is ready to kick off the North American leg of her Speak Now World tour on Friday with a two-night stand.