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Ryan Johnson, Published September 06 2013

Ear-piercing screams welcome Taylor Swift to packed Fargodome

FARGO – Taylor Swift had the crowd of more than 20,000 right where she wanted them, even before anyone in the Fargodome could see her.

The 23-year-old singer who has topped the charts since her teens took to the stage just after 8:30 p.m. Friday, with only her silhouette visible behind a large red curtain. The eager audience didn’t wait to catch a glimpse before they erupted into an ear-piercing scream.

Swift delivered loud, energetic performances of “State of Grace,” “Holy Ground” and “Red,” the title track of her latest album and also the name of her current tour across North America.

Red was everywhere at the Fargodome, whether it was the two-dozen or so semis parked outside that brought in her elaborate stage and gear, the red spotlights or the sparkly red dress that Swift changed into for her fourth performance of the night, a 1960s girl group-like version of “You Belong with Me.”

Empty seats were few and far between. No official audience count was available Friday evening, but Fargodome officials previously said they expected a sold-out show by the time Swift took the stage.

Swift was talkative during the big production, explaining some of the inspiration behind her wildly popular music that’s sold more than 25 million albums. She said she’s written many of the songs on her four albums about the same topic, and said in order to do that, the topic needs to be “always changing” and “really unpredictable.”

“And for me, that topic is love,” she said.

Swift explained early into her set that she started to compare colors to emotions, and realized that red represented opposite ends of the emotional spectrum – falling in love, and the various ways that love can fall apart.

“But actually, these emotions are teaching us the lessons we need to learn in order to grow up,” she said.

Casey James, the third-place finisher on “American Idol” in 2010, kicked off the show just before 7 p.m. with a 20-minute set of country-infused songs, including the single “Crying on a Suitcase” that he told the crowd earned Swift’s praise backstage.

Next up was Ed Sheeran, the British singer/songwriter who has found massive success at home and has become a rising star in America.

He knew how to get the crowd ready for the rest of the night, launching into his one-man show with a 40-minute set packed with driving acoustic guitar riffs and earnest vocals. The audience roared its approval after each of the six songs he performed, whether it was his cover of Britney Spears’ pop classic “Baby One More Time” or his own hit singles “The A Team” and “Lego House.”

The first sign of Swift’s country music origins came out during her fifth song, “Mean,” when she sat down on a wooden chest on stage, banjo in hand.

There was no denying Swift’s music is now firmly in pop territory, and her costume changes, elaborate stage setups and choreographed swaying with a large team of professional dancers guaranteed the audience knew they were looking at one of the biggest names in pop music today.

Her set list was heavily stacked with songs from her latest album, including monster hit “22” that she performed as she dropped off the stage, was carried through the crowd and then climbed onto a smaller stage near the back of the Fargodome where she met up with about a dozen dancers.

Swift brought Sheeran back on stage to join her for their duet “Everything Has Changed,” another hit from her “Red” album, and later sat behind a red piano to play “All Too Well.”

She had the crowd screaming along with “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “Love Story” – more songs about love that have contributed to her undeniable success.

Like she’s done at other stops on her “Red” tour, Swift ended her show without an encore, a necessity for most major concerts.

Instead, she wrapped up her nearly two-hour set around 10:30 p.m. with a giant sing-along to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” After years in the limelight, Swift has found her knack – singing about love, even if it’s ugly.

Fargo sixth-grader Ashley Sather went to her first big concert Aug. 4, when she had a chance to see British boy band One Direction during a family vacation in San Diego.

She said she was excited to see Swift, but didn’t hesitate explaining why she thought her first concert’s musicians were better.

“One Direction are boys,” the 11-year-old said.

She was looking forward to seeing Sheeran – another boy, of course, who also wrote some songs for One Direction.

Dillon Nelson, 20, said there was a simple reason he was at Swift’s concert – a show with an overwhelming female-to-male ratio and a much younger average age than most big concerts.

“She made me,” he joked, pointing to girlfriend and fellow Kenmare native ShaeLyn Martin.

“Kind of,” she admitted.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587