As his popularity continues to grow since his arrival on the music scene eighteen months ago, Vance Joy takes to the stage a little after 7.30pm to entertain the 15,000 'Swifties' before him. His thirty minute set sees him engage the crowd in a brief, arena-wide hand-clap, perform a rather good cover of Sam Smith's 'Stay With Me,' and finally round out his performance by encouraging those before him to take over vocal duties on his most popular song 'Riptide'. Although many of the thousands before him tonight may have been unfamiliar with him prior to this evening, by the time he exits the stage, he's certainly won himself some new fans.
Before even stepping foot on stage, Taylor Swift evidently has something special in store, judging by the wristbands attached to every seat, and, as her set gets under-way with 'Welcome To New York', they suddenly come to life and illuminate the entire arena in an array of flashing colours - it makes for an amazing sight and a great start to the show.
The use of smoke which shoots out from either side of the stage during 'I Knew You Were Trouble' takes many by surprise, but that doesn't stop the masses from singing along with the catchy chorus at the top of their voices. Video montage interviews with the likes of HAIM allow Taylor to change outfits quickly and when she re-appears and launches into 'How You Get The Girl', her dress changes colour from white to pink, making for a nice contrast set against the glowing white umbrellas held by her dancers.
With a walkway set up down the middle of the arena and, as an artist who has long since built up a reputation for being chatty with her fans, it's little surprise to then see Taylor walk down it, take a few minutes to interact with her huge audience and talk about hopes, dreams and 80's movies. Staying on the walkway, she performs an acoustic rendition of 'You Are In Love', inviting everyone to sing back to her the words 'silence', 'way home' and 'lights out' - they duly oblige and thousands of voices, in almost perfect harmony, help her through the song as the wristbands turn the venue into a glittering sea of blue.
Another conversational interlude brings with it a message of empowerment and positivity. Towards the end of her speech, with great emotion she declares: "You aren't the opinion of someone who doesn't know you. You are not damaged goods", to which she receives an almost deafening cheer before she begins 'Clean' as the walkway slowly rises and turns so she can walk to either side of the arena.
A real highlight of the set comes via 'Bad Blood' as her dancers run and jump their way around the stage using window style props. By following this up with 'We Are Never Getting Back Together', Taylor maintains the energy levels and both she and her crowd take great pleasure in belting out the chorus together.
Minutes later, she reappears seated at a piano, and plays the first few notes of 'Wildest Dreams'. Before beginning the song however, she looks out at her audience once more and with a smile says: " For all 15,000 of you, this will all be just a memory one day, but for me, it will definitely be one of the best ones.” Her performance, assisted by the minimal lighting and the wristbands of the crowd illuminating the venue, is beautiful and deeply emotive.
In closing out the show with 'Shake It Off', Taylor and her dancers parade down the walkway, turning to face each side of the crowd in turn as, in all corners of the venue, fans are on their feet, singing, dancing and clapping along. The cheers and applause only get louder as the song draws to a close and, even as Taylor disappears from view, it takes another three minutes before the noise finally subsides.
Taylor Swift has long since been a country-pop princess, but tonight, in front of a sold-out crowd, she also ruled the people of Manchester, and they couldn't have been happier about it.