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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. Andrews chapter.

In case it hasn’t been made clear yet, I’m an absolute Swiftie. So there was no question in my mind that I would be going to the Union’s Taylor Swift events – a £5 ticket to attend the Bop (a club night of Taylor Swift music from 11pm to 2am), or for an extra £5, access to an additional Taylor Swift tribute concert by Xenna beforehand (from 9.45pm until 10.45pm). I was so determined, I even attended the tribute alone, with my friends joining me afterwards for the Bop. I have to admit that as an international student (or, a non-American student), I will grasp any chance to get even close to a Taylor Swift concert experience (Eras Tour, I’m looking at you. I am pointedly not looking at Taylor’s recent drop-ins in London concerts). But all this explains my mindset before attending… While I may be biased as a fan, that also meant that my expectations were all the higher. 

Taylor’s recent spike in popularity in combination with a few of my Swiftie friends’ reluctance to go to the tribute itself, I really had no idea how busy the event would be. The line was not out the door when I arrived, but by the time the lights dimmed, the room filled up, and I found myself three rows from the stage with people crowding behind me comfortably filling the room. 

Xenna, who would be performing the Taylor Swift Tribute act, emerged in a perfect replica of Taylor’s 2019 iHeartRadio Wango Tango concert piece – the Lover era, rainbow two piece outfit with the matching long rainbow fringe denim jacket. Not to mention, that her hair, just past her shoulders, was styled with a familiar blonde fringe. But this was just the start, as she would undergo a few costume changes. The next was a 1989 era imitation, with a shiny, electric purple skirt with a blue and black bedazzled bomber jacket over a black shirt – as from the 1989 tour. While that one was accurate (and speaks to the style of the mid 2010s), the following one, paired with her entrance on stage, was fantastic to see. The iconic audio of “Taylor can’t come to the phone right now…” played during her costume change, before the beginning notes of ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ rolled out as Xenna strolled on beat on stage in a replica of Taylor’s one piece black bodysuit with its black glittered hood and over the knee boots.

In that same performance, she danced part of the choreography from the music video over the chorus each time she sang it – which was fun to recognise as a fan, and for the crowd to witness. Xenna made a point of always moving, whether walking across the stage, posing or dancing, rather than simply standing in the middle in front of a microphone. It also made me less critical of her next costume change, for which she simply reached into the backstage and retrieved a fluffy pink coat and yellow sunglasses to wear on top of her current costume (minus the hood) – a nod to the ‘You Need To Calm Down’ music video. Admittedly, this did allow for more performance time, and was the outfit she closed the show with… Before returning to the encore in a silver, sparkling imitation of Taylor’s 1989 tour dress, complete with strings of glitter greatly taken advantage of during her performance of ‘Shake it Off’. As a whole, I believe the outfits were all sourced from either 1989, Reputation or Lover. To be fair, four of Taylor’s albums did not get a tour and it was only an hour long show, and yet Xenna managed to offer 5 different looks that mostly did justice to the original costume and tied together with the performance as a whole.

The set list included hits such as ‘Style’, ‘Love Story’, ‘22’, ‘All Too Well’ and ‘Ready For It’ – to name a few. ‘Anti-Hero’ was also added to incorporate her latest album rather than relying on a great number of hits that the crowd would enjoy regardless, which I appreciated. The song that stood out to me the most, though it wasn’t sung in its entirety, was ‘Teardrops On My Guitar’, as it felt a bit more personal for the fans attending, rather than a popular crowd pleasers. 

While I did not find Xenna’s voice similar to Taylor’s, I did not mind as I was there to hear Xenna performing a tribute. While the experience of being in a crowd singing and watching a Taylor concert was enchanting in itself, it cannot be understated that Xenna did not shy away from long or difficult notes – even earning a few cheers from the crowd for her vocals. By moments she seemed perhaps a bit too peppy, but it didn’t work against her. The crowd did not mind being reminded how incredible they were, happily joining in the choreographies she introduced (for ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’), and following her prompting for chants or cheers.

So, was it like attending the real thing? Of course not. We are talking about entirely different budgets, locations, durations and people! This was a tribute arranged and held in a university building admitting only its students. But then, was it worth it? Considering the tribute ticket was £5 (as an add-on to the Bop), I would say, yes! Getting a coffee with a snack at Starbucks can be more expensive than that. Considering Taylor’s enormous popularity at the moment, performers could get away with very low effort shows (though not without disappointing the audience). The Taylor Swift Tribute by Xenna offered accurate and fun costumes, big smiles and energy, a wide ranging set-list and choreographies. It was clear the research had been done in order to give the most with the limited time and space available, and it was well executed. The accuracy of the costumes, Xenna’s dedication to high spirit and positivity, singing talent and choreographed moments made the experience all the more rewarding.

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Aislinn Nolan

St. Andrews '23

Hi! I'm Aislinn, I'm an Mlitt Women, Writing and Gender student. I wrote reviews during my undergraduate (and worked on committee for the Feminist Society), and have worked as both a poetry editor and as a publishing intern. I love reading, creative writing, and engaging with arts and culture.