‘Scottish Swifties party hard’: Taylor Swift kicks off the UK leg of her Eras Tour in Edinburgh

It’s the biggest show on Earth: over a billion dollars in revenue, millions of fans, and even more friendship bracelets. On a sun-dappled Friday evening in Edinburgh, Taylor Swift’s record-breaking Eras Tour landed in the UK.

All around the city, local businesses got into the spirit of Swiftmania. Hotel lobbies were decorated with balloons, streamers, and cardboard cutouts of the US singer. On every corner, hit singles such as the wistful synth-pop of “All You Had to Do Was Stay” and the defiant bop “Shake It Off” were blasted from pub speakers.

Over a year since the opening concert in Arizona, Swift, 34, finally touched down in the UK, for the first of three nights at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh where hundreds of fans had camped the night before as they vied for a spot in front of the stage. Along the route, vendors flogged pink cowboy hats, feather boas, and heart-shaped sunglasses.

Outside the venue, however, Swifties were already donning their best outfits that often referenced one of the pop star’s various “eras”. There were shades of bright scarlet and deep crimson paying homage to Swift’s 2012 record, Red, while others dressed in dark glittering indigo and lavender in a nod to 2022’s Midnights. Soft pastel tones and sequins represented her hit album Lover, while her twin records Folklore and Evermore inspired swathes of white lace and earthy colours in the crowd.

Speaking to The Independent ahead of the show, Hannah, 33, said she had travelled from Texas to see Swift, citing cheaper tickets and her “very wonderful boyfriend”.

It was the first time she would be seeing the singer live. “It’s incredible,” Hannah said. “Everyone is so kind, it feels like family. It’s the most welcoming atmosphere you could imagine.”

Taylor Swift fan Hannah had travelled from Texas (The Independent)
Taylor Swift fan Hannah had travelled from Texas (The Independent)

Tom, 28, from Edinburgh, fell in love with Swift’s music a few years ago, after hearing the dreamy, Eighties-influenced “Style”. He stood outside the stadium wearing a hot pink cowboy hat, grinning as fans filtered past. “This is my first show,” he said. “I came on my own, I literally bought a ticket last minute today. I can’t believe I’m here.”

The frenzy over Swift’s show has drawn comparisons to Beatlemania, with attention this time directed not at a Fab Four but at the lone figure who strode out onto the stage in her shimmering sequined bodysuit. Beaming, Swift launched into a dazzling opening salvo comprising songs from her 2019 record Lover.

“We’ve checked this about 20 times,” she said, addressing her adoring audience, “and this is the biggest stadium in Scottish history.” 73,000 fans screamed their approval. “Edinburgh, you’ve made us feel so welcome.”

Taylor Swift fan Tom (The Independent)
Taylor Swift fan Tom (The Independent)

The atmosphere was nothing short of electric. This far into the tour, most fans were well acquainted with not just the material, but all of Swift’s moves: every wink, every wave, every hair flick. They sang along to the bridge of “Cruel Summer” without missing a beat and roared “f*** the patriarchy” on the 10-minute version of “All Too Well”.

As she clambered down from her to-scale treehouse, Swift congratulated a couple who got engaged during her performance of “Cardigan”.

“I don’t usually get to see those,” she said. “Thank you for getting engaged at my show!”

She kept an eye out for fans who might have become overwhelmed or dehydrated. “I’m just gonna keep doing this until [security] know where I’m looking at,” she said, aiming her guitar to a spot in the crowd during the acoustic segment of her tour.

Moments later, her hand froze during a rendition of “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve”, and Swift quite literally had to “Shake It Off”.

“This is so embarrassing,” she told fans as she appeared to wrestle with cramp. “I must have done this a million times and my hand has never formed a claw before.”

Taylor Swift onstage at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh during the first UK date of her record-breaking Eras Tour (TAS Rights Management)
Taylor Swift onstage at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh during the first UK date of her record-breaking Eras Tour (TAS Rights Management)

Even before Swift kicked off her Eras tour in Glendale, Arizona, in March last year, the pop star’s mammoth stadium show – spanning her full catalogue and comprising nearly two decades’ worth of hits – had already generated headlines around the world. It even sparked a minor diplomatic row in southeast Asia.

Last month, it was predicted that this UK leg could generate close to a £1bn boost for the economy, as politicians scrambled to confirm their allegiance. London mayor Sadiq Khan declared himself a “proud Swiftie” to The Independent, as he expressed his excitement over welcoming the pop titan to the capital in August.

Swift’s prolificity over the past five years has ensured that she continues to dominate headlines like no other artist. Since the surprise release of twin albums Folklore and Evermore – conceived after she was forced to cancel her Lover tour due to onset of the pandemic – she has barely paused for breath. She triumphed at the 2021 Grammy Awards, making history as the first woman to win Album of the Year three times.

Next, she released two of her album re-recordings, Red and Fearless, with each billed as “Taylor’s Version” as part of her ongoing bid to reclaim the rights to her masters – following a public row with controversial music mogul Scooter Braun. Then came Midnights, the 2022 album produced with frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff, securing yet another history-making achievement – the first artist in history to win four Grammys for Album of the Year.

Cover art for ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ (AP)
Cover art for ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ (AP)

Which brought us to her 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department, announced as Swift collected yet another Grammy at the ceremony in Los Angeles, and released on 19 April. Widely believed to be about her brief dalliance with The 1975 frontman Matty Healy, as well as her split from her boyfriend of six years, British actor Joe Alwyn, it polarised critics (The Independent’s Helen Brown awarded it five stars). Yet naysayers didn’t impede Swift’s shattering of myriad chart and streaming records.

“I think it takes a few weeks to grow on you,” fan Isla said, defending the record from negative reviews during the concert. “I actually think it’s one of her best albums.”

After the show, when the final burst of fireworks had drifted into smoke, Swifties lingered in the stadium, flushed, beaming and awestruck, or else made the dash for the first tram outside, shivering in their dresses.

“I grew up listening to her in elementary school, so this is a special moment,” Sarah, 35, said, revealing she’d come from Toronto, Canada. “Her music has been a part of my whole childhood, my youth, and now my adulthood. She means everything to me.”

Swift sings to 73,000 fans in Edinburgh (TAS Rights Management)
Swift sings to 73,000 fans in Edinburgh (TAS Rights Management)

Sarah also praised the Scottish fans, saying they “liked to party a little harder” than Canadian Swifties. “They’ve got incredible energy, everyone’s just so much fun,” she said.

Joseph, 24, who was dressed in head-to-toe pink sequins, had come from Aberdeen on his own. “I’ve been waiting for years to see her live, and she was even better than I thought she’d be,” he said.

Swift’s music from her Folklore and Evermore eras meant the most to him, he said, as his grandmother died during the pandemic and those songs reminded him of her.

Katrina attended the concert with her 10-year-old daughter, Tamsin, who got to see Swift for the first time. “I really wanted to hear her do ‘Cardigan’ live, because that’s my favourite,” she said. “I think she’s the best singer in the world.”