By David Menconi
RALEIGH -- One song into her sold-out Saturday night show at the RBC Center, Taylor Swift paused to drink in a little adulation. Youthful distaff shrieks rained down and she smirked while surveying her domain. You could almost read the thought running through her mind:
How ya like me now?
Swift is a high-school revenge fantasy come to life, unafraid to show off the chip on her shoulder. And who hasn't fantasized about becoming a wildly successful pop star, and really showin' 'em? Like Shania Twain, she owes as much to '70s-vintage arena-rock as she does to anybody's notion of "country music." Like Avril Lavigne, she credibly speaks the lingo of growing up. And like Elvis Costello, she is all about revenge and guilt.
Saturday's show had an elaborate stage backdrop that variously served as a high school hallway, library, enchanted forest, castle and landscape of flames. Swift, her backup band and crew of dancers acted out various songs, most of which were about somebody who done wronged her.
Introducing "Teardrops on My Guitar," Swift described a high-school crush who would only talk to her about his girlfriend. "So I never told him I liked him," she said. "But I did write a song about him. So he knows now." Then she gave a sweet smile that, once again, turned into a smirk.
The show clocked in at two hours, 16 songs and multiple costume changes, from drum-major uniform to slinky red dress. Swift played a credible guitar, which also yielded another story about somebody who dissed her -- a guitar teacher who told her she'd never be able to play 12-string because her fingers were too small. Then she smirked again and strummed the first verse of "Fifteen" just fine.
Ten of 16 songs came from last year's mega-selling "Fearless," including the title track, "White Horse" and "Forever & Always" -- which was prefaced by a videoclip interview where Swift said that if guys don't want songs written about them, "They shouldn't do bad things." She sang "Fifteen" and "Hey Stephen" from out in the crowd, passing out a few score hugs and even an autograph or two on her way back to the stage.
That was sweet, but the show closed on a defiant note with "Should've Said No." A sheet of falling water appeared, spelling out the word NO. Swift sang the final verse beneath it, getting thoroughly drenched. Then she clenched a wet, triumphant fist and waved goodbye as the curtain fell.
Revenge is a dish best served cold -- and, apparently, wet.
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