Wishing for a “Red” New Year

This is the story of my greatest regret.

Flashback to July 6, 2013, nearly nine years ago.  It’s a gorgeous day, and I’m floating around in my parent’s swimming pool, wondering if I’d made the right decision.

Surely you know what happened that day.  You don’t?

Taylor Swift’s Red Tour came to Pittsburgh. 

Until that moment, I’d seen Swift every time she’d come through Pittsburgh, all the way back to 2006 when she opened for Faith Hill and Tim McGraw’s Soul2Soul II Tour.  Back when she played about five songs wearing cowboy boots and a floral print dress while half the audience bought beer and nachos.  It was much the same in 2007 when she opened for George Strait, still sporting her original curly blonde hair.

My best friend Nina and I saw her first headlining tour, Fearless in 2009, and we were back for Speak Now in 2011.

We were Swifties before they even had a name for it.

So why weren’t we there on that July day in 2013?

Stupidity and stubbornness. 

While we’d previously seen Swift at the covered and now defunct Mellon Arena, the Speak Now Tour had been at Heinz Field, the open air arena where the Pittsburgh Steelers play football.

It was—and remains—a terrible place for live music.  The sound dissipates into the open end of the field, and the seats that we can afford are so far away from the stage that you can barely see the jumbotron, much less that actual artist.  You’re at the mercy of Pittsburgh summer weather, meaning it’ll either be so hot you’ll be sticking to your seat or hiding under a plastic bag poncho in a drenching thunderstorm.

Who needs it?

Not us, we decided.

But July 6, 2013 was a perfect day.  High seventies, sunny, low humidity.

The kind of day only Taylor Swift could command for Pittsburgh in July.

I was floating around, thinking that I could call Nina, we could buy tickets from someone selling outside the gate, and even if our noses bled, at least we’d be there.

But instead I just laid in the pool, oblivious to the fact that my flip phone was ringing off the hook.  This was in the before times, when people had cell phones, but they stayed in your purse unless you were actively making a call.  They weren’t yet a permanent appendage.

It was Nina, and she wasn’t calling to say we should buy tickets for the Red Tour.  Her mother-in-law had somehow won two front row tickets to the Red Tour and gave them to Nina.

Let me say that again…FRONT ROW TICKETS TO THE RED TOUR.

But she couldn’t get through to me in time, so she went with her mother-in-law, who didn’t know Taylor Swift from James Taylor.  You could hear the primal scream two states over when I listened to that voice mail, knowing it was too late.

That’s why people take their phones into the bathroom with them.

Nina and I were back in 2015 for the 1989 Tour, and in 2018 our Swiftie duo became a trio when we took her daughter to the Reputation Tour.

The next generation of Swifities has begun.

I will never miss another Taylor Swift tour, but I will never hear most of the songs from the Red album—the best Swift album—live.  Never get to hear her sing All Too Well.

“Your greatest regret is that you didn’t answer your phone?” Nina’s daughter asked me, eyebrow lifted, when I told her this story.

“It is.”

“Pretty charmed life,” she said, making me laugh.

Charmed indeed.  Because this past November, Taylor Swift was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, and out of nowhere she played an expanded, ten-minute version of All Too Well, nearly a decade after its initial release.

As part of her ongoing battle with her original record label, she re-released the Red album with new and expanded songs.

“You know what this means?” Nina asked when she called the next morning.

I did.

One day this pandemic will end, and Taylor Swift will tour again.  And though she has three new albums of material that she’s never gotten to play live (Lover, Folklore, Evermore), that tour will include her monster version of All Too Well.

The three of us will be there.  And I’ll get the second chance I never deserved.

Because for those ten minutes, it’ll be 2013.

And I’ll finally be at the Red Tour.

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