It Hits Different: Reliving 'Speak Now' 12 Years Ago As My First Concert Experience | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Taylor Swift Manila Concert 2011
Taylor Swift in her Manila Concert in 2011. Photo by the author.

Everything about it just made sense in 2011!



A day after Taylor Swift dropped “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)”, I immediately dug through my archives of digital camera photos, hopping from folder to folder to find my documentation of her Speak Now World Tour in the Philippines—my very first concert. Nothing could’ve prepared me for the surge of emotions I felt when I played the shaky and blurry footage of a 19-year-old Taylor performing on home soil. It was an overwhelming wave of nostalgia, happiness, and pride for how far my favorite artist has come. 

Having been a “Swiftie” since 2008, I always knew Taylor would go far, but never imagined how much of an impact she’d continue to make on my life and the world more than a decade later. Taylor, the sweet and girl-next-door country singer, became my childhood hero and role model. You could only imagine my excitement as an 11-year-old when my parents got me tickets to see her as a Christmas gift. I was a shy fourth-grader who obviously couldn’t relate to Taylor’s vulnerable chronicles on love and heartbreak—but was crazy about her songs, nonetheless.

Fast forward to 12 years later, I am 22 and listening to a re-release of the album that defined my youth. It feels different now that I’ve had my own share of experiences and have somehow gone through the same things she did. Taylor’s success has grown colossal—breaking records, topping charts, transcending genres throughout seven additional studio albums, and making history with The Eras Tour—a sensational culmination of her massive milestones so far. 

It’s been a decade since Taylor last stepped foot in the country for her Red Tour and will, sadly, be skipping a Philippines stop for Eras; however, we will always remember our first enchanting meeting with Taylor Swift that night on February 19, 2011. 

Although Taylor symbolically had her closure with this era in her recently released “I Can See You” music video, fans consider Speak Now as “Classic Taylor” at her finest and most vulnerable. In honor of the album’s re-release, here’s a look back on the Speak Now World Tour in Manila through a Swiftie’s digital camera, and some musings of how much has changed since then.


The Cheapest Ticket was Priced at ₱530

TicketNet Taylor Swift
Yup, you read that right. Compared to an average concert ticket today, you only needed as much as ₱530 to be able to see Taylor Swift live from General Admission, and ₱12,680 for a Patron VIP seat 12 years ago! Tickets to see Taylor today range from around ₱2,800 to a whopping ₱52,000 including VIP packages—and worse, fighting to secure tickets is a bloodbath and every fan’s worst nightmare. Thankfully, we didn’t have to go through all that stress in 2011.


The Nostalgic Araneta Coliseum

Araneta Coliseum Taylor Swift

Way before the Philippine Arena in Bulacan or the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay opened its doors, the Araneta Coliseum, now Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao was the place to be for international shows. Its seating capacity housed around 10,000 Filipino Swifties back then, which is a far cry from her stadium crowds of more than 73,000 attendees for the ongoing Eras Tour. Since the Upper Box and General Admission areas were free seating at that time, I remember having to go earlier to get a good seat. I sat down with my mom beside a group that had prepared cute matching t-shirts and a few banners. 


Sam Concepcion Sang “Firework” for the Opening Act

Sam Concepcion Taylor Swift Concert

Nothing can get more 2011 than a Katy Perry hit to get the crowd going. Taylor is known for her star-studded guests and opening acts for her concerts in the likes of Phoebe Bridgers, Sabrina Carpenter, and even Paramore. For the Speak Now World Tour, Taylor had our very own singer, dancer, actor, and host Sam Concepcion open for her with an energetic rendition of “Firework.” The way Taylor said his last name in her American accent was so cute that it lived in my mind rent-free all these years. Without a doubt, many artists would literally wish they were in Sam’s shoes at that time.


Sparks Flew When She Appeared Onstage

Sparks Fly.

When Taylor finally opened the show with “Sparks Fly,” I remember tearing up because I was paralyzed with starstruck all the way from the Upper Box. The crowd erupted in deafening cheering as they sang along to the lyrics“The way you move is like a full-on rain storm.”  It felt so surreal, finally breathing the same air as Taylor Swift  from just hearing the song only from my CDs. Clad in her gold sparkly dress and black boots, she was quintessential Taylor in her natural curls, smokey cat-eye, red lipstick, and lyrics written in marker across her arm. 

Introduction x Story of Us

My Swiftie heart soared when she made her introductions to the crowd after singing “Mine,” with her cute “Magandang gabi, Manila!” and iconic “I’m Taylor.” She basked in the energy of the Pinoy fans and spoke to the crowd: “Something that you guys have taught me is that, even if we speak different languages and live all the way across the world from each other, chances are: our experiences of love and heartbreak are the same.”



Taylor’s OG Band

Speak Now

Here’s another throwback: The Agency. Taylor’s original band was still touring with Taylor at that time. Some of their beloved members were guitarists Grand Mickelson and Paul Sidoti, backup singers Liz Huett and Caitlin Evanson who also played the fiddle, drummer Al Wilson, keyboardist David Cook, bassist Amos Heller, and banjo player Mike Meadows. 

The band was essential to the country-music genre Taylor explored at that time. She had her handy red electric guitar, koi fish guitar, and ukulele which she used to play her hit songs from “Fearless” and Train’s “Hey Soul Sister.”


“Back to December” and “Apologize” Mash-Up

Back To December

Those were the days when her heartbreak romance with Taylor Lautner was still fairly fresh, as seen in her emotion-filled piano rendition of “Back to December.” Who would’ve thought that the two would reunite as good friends in her Eras tour, 12 years later? However, Taylor put a twist to the song and merged it with One Republic’s hit “Apologize.” That couldn’t have been more 2011, but the two songs married perfectly to convey the feelings of heartfelt regret. It seems like the performance aged well after all.


Living in the Moment

Taylor Swift Manila Concert 2011

In today’s digital age, you won’t be able to attend a concert without seeing a sea of smartphones held up for recording that picture-perfect IG story. In 2011, it was mostly just a bunch of digicams and cameras as they were not as common to have in concerts. As expected, the Filipino crowd showered Taylor with so much love and energy, and it’s nice to remember a time when everyone lived in the moment without having to worry about getting the perfect shot. 

Taylor’s Asia Vlog

The ending of the concert left me in a Taylor Swift hangover for weeks. I remember finding Taylor’s Asia video blog as I was scrolling through YouTube in an internet cafe. Taylor documented her quirky adventures traveling around Singapore, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. It appears that she was actually cutting her backup singers’ hair in what appears to be her hotel room in Manila. “The crowd is insanely crazy, I’m so stoked,” Taylor said about the Filipino audience in her vlog. 

All in all, Taylor’s career has been an extraordinary journey. and I feel thankful to have witnessed her growth in all the various eras of her music. The Speak Now concert was so special and is still vivid in my memories, and I’m so grateful to have heard Taylor live at her most vulnerable and personal. 

For the lucky ones who will be able to see her for the Eras tour, it would undoubtedly be an ultimate dream come true, more than a decade in the making. We can only hope that Taylor will grace the Philippines again soon, as we eagerly wait to welcome her back with open arms.

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