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Taylor Swift Wraps Up Nashville Show Past 1:30 a.m., in Driving Rain, After Long Lightning Delay: ‘We All Look Like River Otters’

Taylor Swift’s recent song “Midnight Rain” lived up to its name when it was performed Sunday night at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium, except that it was actually after 1 a.m. local time when it finally came up in the set list. The finale of her hometown three-night stand was pushed back hours from its scheduled start time due to lightning strikes near the downtown area; once it did finally get underway after 10 p.m., the second half of the three-and-a-half-hour set was marked by a steady downpour, hitting Swift as hard as it did the audience in the roofless venue, before the show finally wrapped up just after 1:35 a.m.

The general crowd mood, at that drenched wee hour: delirious. (Except for the small minority of fans who gave up and went home before the show got started.)

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“It’s officially a rain show,” Swift told the crowd of 70,000, when the long-threatened rain finally arrived in earnest midway through “Delicate,” the 16th number of a 45-song show that might go down in legend as “Late Night With Taylor Swift.”

Later, as the downpour didn’t let up, during the “Red”-themed portion of the show, she said, “This is something we’re all doing together. It’s like such a bonding experience. We’re all gonna leave here tonight looking like we just went through five car washes… People will be like, ‘Where were you? Several wars?’ And you’re like, ‘No, I just went to the Eras Tour. It’s fine.'”

As the clock neared 1 a.m., Swift launched into the penultimate “surprise songs” segment of the show, for which she was joined by a special guest, a co-writer and co-producer on her last three albums, the National’s Aaron Dessner, to play a second guitar on the “Midnights” bonus track “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve.” Making the long walk from the main stage to the B-stage in the middle of the stadium, Dessner, too, quickly looked waterlogged.

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - MAY 07: EDITORIAL USE ONLY Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner of the National perform onstage for night three of Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour  at Nissan Stadium on May 07, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Shearer/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)
Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner of the National perform onstage for night three of the Eras Tour at Nissan Stadium on May 7, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Shearer/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

“You guys have been through a lot tonight,” she told the crowd. “We all look like we were sprayed by a garden hose. We all look like river otters.” Of Dessner, she added, “He was warned about the rain and he did accept the challenge anyway. Don’t worry about us, we’ve talked about this. We knew this was a possibility. Your hair is gonna look just as good as mine pretty soon.”

Dessner was up for the memorable occasion. “I was lucky to see other shows on this tour, but in the rain it’s even better,” he claimed.

The show was scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m., as it has at every other stop on the tour, with two opening acts preceding a Swift set that usually lasts from about 7:50 till about 11:15. In Nashville Sunday, though, the show was about an hour from starting when announcements appeared on big screens and on social media warning attendees to shelter in place in the venue’s concourses, or remain in their cars if they had not gone inside yet. That warning remained in place from around 5:30 until around 9:45, at which point lightning left the area — for the time being — and fans were told they should finally take their seats, leading to a human traffic jam through the stadium entryways. By that point, some fatigued families with younger children had already taken their leave.

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - MAY 07: EDITORIAL USE ONLY Taylor Swift performs onstage for night three of Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour  at Nissan Stadium on May 07, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Shearer/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)
A wet-haired Taylor Swift performs onstage for night three of the Eras Tour at Nissan Stadium on May 7, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Shearer/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

“Rain shows” are actually well-remembered and prized among some fans who’ve seen her in outdoor stadium settings before, so dampened spirits weren’t much of a problem among those who’d made it through the marathon wait as the show finally got underway at about 10:10 p.m. Opening acts Phoebe Bridgers and Gracie Abrams had long since been bumped from the bill, not surprisingly, with a Swift set that has averaged out at about 220 minutes still to go.

The sight of Swift with a wet head is not unfamiliar (some past tours have ended with her either standing in a waterfall or cavorting with her dancers in a fountain), but the length and extent to which she was out in a downpour along with fans might be unprecedented in her touring life. The singer made a point as things wound down at 1:37 a.m. to ask the crowd to “make some noise for my phenomenal dancers who danced in the rain for you all night. … The fact that you stayed for us, that you gave us everything you had — we love you so much, Nashville. We will never forget this night.”

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - MAY 07: EDITORIAL USE ONLY Taylor Swift performs onstage for night three of Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour  at Nissan Stadium on May 07, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Shearer/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)
Taylor Swift performs on a soaked stage for night three of Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour at Nissan Stadium on May 7, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Shearer/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

Lightning did return to the surrounding area before Swift’s show ended, as fan photos and videos showed the sky lighting up in the distance around midnight, but the show was not further halted once it began. Although fans wondered whether curfews or fines might cause Swift’s set to be condensed, Nissan Stadium is city-owned and said not to be subject to the restrictions that might affect other venues — especially when unleashing 70,000 angry Swifties into the wild is a prospect.

Long delays for lightning or even tornado alerts are not unknown in the summer at Nissan Stadium, as annual CMA Festival passholders can attest. A new stadium is in the planning stages that will have a fixed roof, with plans to build it adjacent to the current facility and have it open for the Titans’ NFL season in 2026.

One of the fans happy to have waited it out for hours was Siobhan Duden, a 32-year-old middle school teacher from Knoxville who was getting one of her first nights out after having a baby six months ago. “We all came together in this bonding moment, singing songs as we waited for Taylor. Everybody completely embraced it. We were all here for Taylor and knew she would be there for us. While we were waiting amid the shelter-in-place, my friends and I joked that Taylor meant it literally when she said ‘Meet me at midnight.’ We literally would have waited if the show did start at midnight to see her, if that was what it took. When I finally got to my seat, it was super exciting because once you realized how many people stayed through all of that, you knew you were around people like you” with equal tenacity.

For Swift fans wondering how Sunday’s show was different from the two preceding it in Nashville, or any other concerts along the routing so far: “The 1” was back in the set Sunday as the first number of the “Folklore” portion, after “Invisible String” curiously made a one-time reappearance Saturday night. Aside from that one-off, “Invisible String” had last been part of the tour setlist on March 25 in Las Vegas. Fans have widely assumed that it was taken out of the set that early in the tour because its lyrics are full of autobiographical details about her relationship with Joe Alwyn, whom she is known to have split from this year.

(Matty Healy of the 1975, who has been tagged as a possible new beau by British tabloids, was reported to be viewing Sunday’s concert from a covered spot… although, contrary to said tabloids’ predictions, he did not perform with Swift. Healy did strum guitar behind Bridgers during her opening set on Saturday.)

Although Bridgers did not get to perform her planned opening set (which on the first two nights in Nashville had featured cameos from her Boygenius colleagues), fans did at least get to see Bridgers again join Swift during the headliner’s set for the third successive rendition of their duet from “Red (Taylor’s Version),” “Nothing New.” (Bridgers will also be opening all of Swift’s shows through the end of May, before departing to tour with Boygenius starting in June.)

In the “secret songs” segment, Swift prefaced her and Dessner’s performance of “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” by describing it as “one of our favorite songs we’ve done together… (that) we hear you guys request all the time.” The song, which has been understood as a return to the subject matter of the “Speak Now” track “Dear John,” has been a clear favorite among all the bonus tracks released as part of the “Midnights” deluxe edition last fall. “You knew every word to that,” she said, expressing surprise at the ferocity of enthusiasm for a tune left off the standard edition.

After Dessner made his exit, and after Swift moved over to piano, she went to much greater lengths to offer lyrical context for the second surprise song, “Mine” — if only to emphasize that that song is not, in fact, autobiographical. In 2010 it was the leadoff single for “Speak Now,” which Swift announced just Friday night would be the next album to be released in her “Taylor’s Version” series of re-recordings of Big Machine catalog product she has urged fans away from buying or playing.

Swift noted that, although she has discussed 2020’s “Folklore” as being really the first time she wrote extensively in character instead of out of her own performance, that truthfully really started 10 years earlier with the “Speak Now” album. “I wrote the (title) song ‘Speak Now’ about interrupting the wedding of an ex…  I was 19 when I wrote that, and none of my exes were getting married,” she pointed out. “It was so fantasy, so fantastical… my first time thinking in cinematic, ‘This isn’t my life, but what if it were’” terms. The same went for the album-leading single: “When I wrote it, I was writing about all these relationship things that hadn’t happened to me. Like ‘there’s a drawer of my things at your place’… Those are things that I was not partaking in at 19, when I wrote these songs. It’s been a treat to go back and re-record them, because I’m relating to them now. This is called ‘Mine.'”

Fans have puzzled over who “Mine” was about for years, since the lyrical details didn’t seem to have known analogs to real-life events. Now, they may be satisfied to finally know for certain who it’s about: nobody.

Swift resumes her tour Friday in Philadelphia. It may take about that long for some of Sunday night’s attendees to get back on their sleep schedule. As the crawl at the end of one of the fan livestreams read: “Goodnight, good luck to everyone with school tmrw.” A special “good luck” may have been in order for everyone whose phone ran out of battery before connecting with family about pickups in the designated waiting area; Nissan Stadium had advised parents via social media to show up three hours after the actual start time.

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