Taylor Swift will headline some of the nation’s largest stadiums when The Eras Tour launches in March. But over the weekend, she attended a far more intimate performance in New Orleans.
On Saturday, Swift caught the 6:15 p.m. set at Preservation Hall, the ancient traditional jazz shrine on St. Peter Street in the French Quarter that barely has room for 100 spectators.
From a back-row pew, Swift watched as drummer Shannon Powell led a band that included 90-year-old clarinetist and saxophonist Charlie Gabriel.
Swift didn’t wear any sort of disguise, or even a hat, to hide her identity. Yet no one seemed to recognize her, possibly because nobody thought one of the world’s biggest pop stars would be hanging out at Preservation Hall on an unremarkable Saturday evening in December.
“It was completely random and unexpected,” said photographer Erika Goldring, who happened to be in the audience that night. “You never would expect to see Taylor Swift at Preservation Hall. Maybe during Jazz Fest, but not in December.”
Swift’s boyfriend, British actor Joe Alwyn, was with her. Alwyn has been in New Orleans for several weeks filming director Yorgos Lanthimes’ “And” with a cast that also includes Emma Stone and Willem Dafoe.
Producer and songwriter Jack Antonoff, a frequent Swift collaborator, was also reportedly in attendance at Pres Hall. Antonoff’s fiancee, actress Margaret Qualley, is part of the “And” cast.
Prior to Saturday’s show, Goldring spoke briefly with Swift in Preservation Hall’s back courtyard. She was struck by how down to earth the superstar was as they chatted about Harvey Nichols and other British department stores.
Swift also said that this was her first visit to Preservation Hall.
When Powell and company performed the song “My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It,” Swift made her way from the back row to the front bandstand and deposited multiple bills in the band’s tip jar.
And still, no one seemed to realize who she was.
“Nobody gasped,” Goldring said. “I didn’t get the sense that anybody put two and two together.
“It was refreshing that somebody who everyone should know could sit in a room with less than 100 people and not be bothered.”
Swift is the world’s reigning concert box office champ. Her 2023 Eras Tour, which is not slated to stop in New Orleans, is playing multiple nights at NFL stadiums in each market.
The itinerary includes three nights at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex. (March 31-April 2), Houston’s NRG Stadium (April 21-23) and Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium (April 28-30).
Preservation Hall has become something of a requisite stop for prominent musicians passing through town. During the 2022 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, guitarist Pete Townshend of The Who performed a brief unplugged set as part of the “Midnight Preserves” concert series.
Dave Grohl was in the audience at Preservation Hall that night. He came to New Orleans during Jazz Fest to watch the Red Hot Chili Peppers fill in for the Foo Fighters at Fair Grounds in the wake of Foos drummer Taylor Hawkins’ death.
Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters spent a week based at Preservation Hall in 2014 while taping a segment of the musical travelogue series “Sonic Highways,” which also resulted in an album of the same name.
The week concluded with a surprise Foo Fighters concert at Preservation Hall on May 17, 2014. The hall’s front shutters were thrown open so fans could watch from St. Peter Street.
Swift’s appearance at the hall this weekend was far more low-key.
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