Arts and Culture

Gig Review: Candlelight – A Tribute to Taylor Swift at Manchester Cathedral

String Infusion, a talented all-female electric & acoustic string group, may not be household names themselves, but the lure of a performance of Taylor Swift’s top hits proved enough to pack out the majestic Manchester Cathedral on Tuesday.

Surrounded by the glow of candlelight (not real candlelight, but artificial – one imagines the health and safety risk to nearby coats must have posed too great a threat) amid the elegant architecture of the cathedral, Swifties gathered to enjoy a performance of Taylor’s greatest tunes as they’d never heard them before. 

Beginning with a stunning rendition of ‘Wildest Dreams’ (an ode to the most powerful all-consuming love) from Taylor’s fifth album 1989, fans were treated to the best of the country-rock and pop artists biggest hits through the magic of an instrumental reinterpretation by a quartet made up of two violins a viola and cello.

WAITING WITH BAITED BREATH: An excited audience waits exepectanly for the performers to arrive.

With her often semi-biographical lyrics and knack for capturing emotions, Taylor Swift’s tunes have been inspiring fans for almost two decades. 

From melodic love songs, to country, to palpably sassy pop-rock, it’s a safe bet the die hard fans who gathered at a mere mention of her name might have thought they’d heard every style of Taylor’s music, but boy were they wrong!

String Infusion’s sublime performance, meant even hits as classic as Love Story, which a 16-year-old Taylor famously wrote during her English class as an alternative ending to Romeo and Juliet, felt brand new.

The grand architecture of the Grade I listed building, certainly created a fascinating backdrop for the quartet’s innovative 65-minute set. 

The fairytale-like interior looked breathtaking in the candlelight and provided the perfect backdrop for hits like Enchanted, which tells the captivating story of a meet cute. 

However the intimate ambience lent even songs like the bubblegum pop We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, an ethereal quality which made onlookers feel they were hearing them for the first time.

But credit where credit’s due, it was String Infusion’s considerable talent that truely made the show.

SETTING THE SCENE: Artificial Candlelight provides a twinkling backdrop to a mesmerising performance.

One may imagine putting a classical spin on Bad Blood or I Knew You Were Trouble, rock ballads which demonstrate Taylor’s famous sass at its finest, could have been no easy task. 

Add to this the difficulty that the speed of songs like You Need To Calm Down – in which Taylor rants in song format against extremism and homophobia online – meant certain notes were simply unattainable, and the quartet certainly had a challenge on their hands.

No one could have failed to be impressed at how they rose to it. 

Instead of being murdered, the catchy songs were given a new lease of life by the occasional altered chord progression or melody and the haunting echo of the combined instruments.

Far from the subtle mouthing of lyrics indicating something lacking, judging by the bobbing of heads, the audience were, rather, Enchanted, as the quartet worked their way through Taylor’s back catalogue, from ‘You belong with me’, which, refreshingly, tells the story of the girl next door from her own perspective, to Everything Has Changed, the product of the singers ‘match-made-in heaven’ partnership with Ed Sheeran.

Fans young and old were captivated by All Too Well, the recent rewrite of which has become female followers’ anthem against sexism with its perfect capturing of the challenges of living in a patriarchy.

The hilarious introductions of songs from the compere, perfectly highlighted Taylor’s humorous side for songs like Blank Space and Look What You Made Me Do, which poke fun at the way the media have portrayed her personal life and relationships.

“We’re going to need your help on this last one, everybody clap if you know it”- and just like that, the room came alive for a stupendous final number of Shake It Off.

The event formed part of a series of candlelight concerts organised by Fever Events, which after success in previous years in the UK and around the world, will be continuing to enchant viewers. 

Happening at various locations around Manchester chosen for their historic beauty like the magnificent Cathedral, Stoller Hall and Edgar Wood Victoria Park, a stunning Art Nouveau building complete with internal arches, these spectacular shows will illuminate the night. 

There’ll even be one off concerts at the spectacular Victoria Baths and even under the wings of a plane at Manchester Airport.

From classical renditions of modern artists including Fleetwood Mac, Dua Lipa, Abba and many more to classical concertos from the likes of Vivadie, Mozart, Einaudi and Tchaikovsky, the series has something for everyone. 

There’ll also be another chance to catch Taylor’s greatest hits in June as well as performances celebrating mesmerising movie scores, superhero soundtracks, rock classics, soul stars like The Supremes and Four Tops and Jazz icons such as Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong.

Tickets are available on the Fever website

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