in performance: taylor swift

taylor swift last night at rupp arena. herald-leader staff photo by pablo alcala.

taylor swift last night at rupp arena. herald-leader staff photo by pablo alcala.

“I had a feeling, just a feeling, that this crowd was going to be loud.”

Admittedly, that was hardly risky prophesy on the part of Taylor Swift, the 20 year old country pop megastar at the onset of a near-two hour concert at Rupp Arena last night. The performance was full of abundant positivity, theatricality and, at times, unavoidable dead weight. But Swift made good on her forecast. The sold out crowd of 18,000 treated her like royalty. And Swift reciprocated the love to a lavish degree.

Taylor’s show was, in every sense, a production. She entered the stage (well, actually, she popped up through its floor) dressed as a majorette (as were all seven members of her band) for the show opening You Belong With Me, donned Renaissance regalia for Love Story (as did her band) and confidently patrolled the performance in various shiny, sequined garbs. Her stage set, a multi-level affair, made efficient use of projections and props. At various points, it transformed itself from a fairyland castle to a library to a New York skyline. Coloring the festivities was a team of six dancers that initially helped propel the production but ultimately added to its steadily erratic pace.

Of course, the most audience winning effect were the glances, smiles and looks of amazement that Swift flashed to the crowd. Given that they were generously splashed with remarkable clarity across a massive video screen, the looks ignited the crowd. As such they became a recurrent device that drew increasingly feverish responses as the evening progressed. Ms. Swift, it seemed, was more than ready for her close up.

On one hand, it is hard to fault the general design of a show like this. There were a generous number of children – mostly girls – 10 and under at Rupp last night. In between opening sets by Gloriana and Kellie Pickler, their faces lit up with the sort of genuine, appealing zeal usually reserved for Christmas morning. That alone was a thrill.

As Swift’s performance progressed, the motivational narratives – the sort of confessions best understood between teens – increased, which was also fine. In fact, the concert’s most anthemic moment was also its most effective – a buoyant reading of the title tune to Swift’s multi-platinum 2008 album Fearless, performed with her entire band (save the drummer) in a row, Springsteen-style at the front of the stage.

And for those posing the big question – specifically, whether or not Swift could actually sing (a query enforced by some severely shaky television outings this year) – the answer last night seemed to be an affirmative one. A champion belter, she’s obviously not. And for sheer range and depth, Pickler was the uncontested vocal champ of the night, even though she was visibly distracted by monitor problems during her 35 minute warm-up set. Still, Swift’s singing was honestly serviceable and durable enough to withstand the show’s physical demands.

But like most performances so heavily dependent on props, costumes and theatrical devices, the concert began to sag at the mid way point. The costume changes became longer and more frequent. Or maybe because the the pace slowed, they just seemed that way. By the time the concert, minus encores, began to wind down with Picture to Burn, parents and their weary (or, in some cases, fast asleep) children began to file out.

Still, a hearty bond between artist and audience had been forged. After performing Hey Stephen on the lower arena steps between Rupp sections 15 and 16, Swift took her time walking down to the arena floor, where she sang her breakthrough hit, Tim McGraw (talk about audience/artist adulation) from a second stage. Along the way – and again as she walked through the floor audience back to the main stage, Swift hugged every patron she could get her arms around. The audience awarded her with an ovation that lasted just over five minutes.

So, yes, the Rupp crowd was loud indeed. Chances are, in fact, that if Swift had chosen spend the night standing onstage, with her amazed gaze blown up to Jumbotron proportions, fans not burdened with parental duties would have cheered her on until the roosters crowed.

Lezak, U.S. put on rally swim caps Comeback keeps Phelps on track Hoff, Hansen fall.(Sports)

Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO) August 11, 2008 | Latimer, Clay Byline: Clay Latimer, Rocky Mountain News Ah, the agony of victory.

Michael Phelps did it again today (Sunday night, U.S. time), helping lead America’s 400-meter freestyle relay team to a breathtakingly narrow victory against France at the Water Cube.

But this time, Phelps was helpless at the end, in agony on the deck until Jason Lezak overcame a 0.41-of-a-second deficit and out- touched France’s Alain Bernard, who had vowed to “smash” the Americans.

The U.S. finished in three minutes, 8.24 seconds, only 0.08 seconds ahead of the French (3:08.32) and smashing the world record by nearly 4 seconds. Australia won the bronze in 3:09.91.

“It was unbelievable,” Phelps said after picking up his second gold and remaining on course to win eight. “Jason finished the race better than we could have asked for. I was like, ‘This is going to be a really close race. Jason in the last 50 seconds was incredible. At the end, you could see I was pretty excited, I was pretty emotional.” The U.S. hadn’t won the 400 relay since the 1996 Atlanta Games, finishing second in 2000 and third in 2004. Phelps usually scours newspapers for motivational material, but he didn’t have to look hard for this one; not with Bernard’s brash predictions.

“We let our swimming do the talking,” Phelps said.

American Katie Hoff, Phelps’ “little sister,” hoped to leave Beijing with a treasure trove of gold, too. But she’s seeing how difficult it is to win a couple of events, much less five or six. Hoff won silver in the 400 freestyle, an improvement over her bronze in the 400 individual medley. see here swim caps

Rebecca Adlington of Great Britain won the 400 free in 4:03.22. Hoff was timed in 4:03.29.

“I gave it everything I had possibly, but they got me in the end. I felt like I should have got my hand on the wall first,” Hoff said.

The Olympic travails of Brendan Hansen also continued in the 100 breaststroke. The 26-year-old world-record holder not only lost to bitter rival Kosuke Kitajima of Japan, but he also failed to win a medal.

Hansen, engulfed in the worst slump of his career, finished fourth at the Olympic trials in his best event, the 200 breast, and struggled to find a groove in preliminaries in the 100 breast.

He has broken seven world records in the 100 and 200 breast and won several gold medals at the world championships but never an Olympic gold in an individual event.

Four years ago in Athens, Han- sen was out-touched by Kitajima and has talked candidly since about avenging that haunting moment.

After another Olympic disappointment, Hansen was the last to leave the pool, walking slow off the deck. Kitajima won in 58.91, followed by Alexander Dale Oen of Norway (59.20) and Hugues Duboscq of France (59.37). Hansen was clocked in 59.57.

The women’s 100 butterfly was billed as another flash point in the mounting athletic wars between China and the U.S., with Zhou Yafei and Christine Magnuson, of Tinley Park, Ill., going head to head.

But Lisbeth Trickett of Australia plunged into the drama, taking gold in 56.73. Magnuson won silver in 57.10 and Jessicah Schipper, another Australian, won bronze in 57.25. Zhou (57.84) was fourth.

Magnuson slammed her right fist into the water after another disappointing result for the U.S.

“It gives me something to improve on,” she said. “It’s one of those things you’re thinking, ‘Should I take an extra stroke or not? I did (Sunday in preliminaries), but today I didn’t.

“I was really relieved (when she touched the wall). I thought I messed it up at the turn, so I was really excited. It’s been an amazing ride. This is what I’ve been wanting my entire career. I know my roommates are probably thinking, ‘Why is she so happy with the silver,’ but I’m just so happy to be here.” Men’s 100 breaststroke: 1. Kosuke Kitajima, Japan, 58.91. (World record. Old record: 59:13, Brendan Han- sen, United States, Aug. 1, 2006, Irvine, Calif.). 2. Alexander Dale Oen, Norway, 59.20. 3. Hugues Duboscq, France, 59.37. 4. Brendan Hansen, Havertown, Pa., 59.57. 5. Brenton Rickard, Australia, 59.74. 6. Roman Sludnov, Russia, 59.87. web site swim caps

Men’s 4×100 freestyle relay: 1. United States (Michael Phelps, Baltimore, 47.51; Garrett Weber- Gale, Milwaukee, 47.02; Cullen Jones, Irvington, N.J., 47.65; Jason Lezak, Irvine, Calif., 46.06), 3:08.24. (World record. Old record: 3:12.23, United States, Aug. 10, 2008, Beijing). 2. France, 3:08.32. 3. Australia, 3:09.91. 4. Italy, 3:11.48. 5. Sweden, 3:11.92. 6. Canada, 3:12.26.

Women’s 100 butterfly: 1. Lisbeth Trickett, Australia, 56.73. 2. Christine Magnuson, Tinley Park, Ill., 57.10. 3. Jessicah Schipper, Australia, 57.25. 4. Zhou Yafei, China, 57.84. 5. Li Tao, Singapore, 57.99. 6. Jemma Lowe, Britain, 58.06.

Women’s 400 freestyle: 1. Rebecca Adlington, Britain, 4:03.22. 2. Katie Hoff, Towson, Md., 4:03.29. 3. Joanne Jackson, Britain, 4:03.52. 4. Coralie Balmy, France, 4:03.60. 5. Federica Pellegrini, Italy, 4:04.56. 6. Camelia Alina Potec, Romania, 4:04.66.

INFOBOX Pool party How U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps is faring in his quest to win eight gold medals:

Event Result 400 individual medley Gold 4×100 free relay Gold REMAINING EVENTS Event Day 200 freestyle Today 200 butterfly Tuesday 4×200 free relay Tuesday 200 individual medley Thursday 100 butterfly Friday 4×100 medley relay Saturday CAPTION(S):

Photo U.S. swimmers, from left, Garrett Weber-Gale, Jason Lezak, Michael Phelps and Cullen Jones celebrate after winning the 400-meter freestyle relay today in Beijing. “At the end, you could see I was pretty excited, I was pretty emotional,” Phelps said. TIMOTHY CLARY / AFP/GETTY IMAGES Latimer, Clay



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