Taylor Swift must have had another birthday party to get to on Friday night.
Performing at the Z100 Jingle Ball at Madison Square Garden on her 30th birthday, the pop superstar opened the festivities instead of closing the night — as headliners typically do. But it hardly mattered to the sold-audience rocking antlers and Santa hats at the annual holiday music blowout.
Taking the stage in a glittery lavender minidress and matching thigh-high boots, the birthday girl sparkled and strutted to her 2014 hit “Blank Space.” “Where would I want to spend my 30th birthday?” she asked in a rhetorical question that drew a roar from the Garden crowd.
Swift sang three songs from her latest album “Lover” — “ME!,” “You Need to Calm Down” and, most affectingly, the title tune, for which she strapped on an acoustic guitar and got the audience to light up the arena with their phones.
The singer donned a Santa hat before doing her new holiday single “Christmas Tree Farm” — an original song that, it’s safe to say, is no “All I Want for Christmas Is You” — before ending her set with her smash “Shake It Off.”
But the music wasn’t over for Swift: After Z100’s Elvis Duran presented her with a giant cake, the audience serenaded her with “Happy Birthday,” which she described as “the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard.”
It was an early highlight that was pretty tough to top at the star-studded event. But the Jonas Brothers, introduced by Katie Holmes, kept the party going with a crowd-pleasing set that reinforced their big comeback this year.
After a lull featuring less familiar artists Lauv, Monsta X and Fletcher — who, rightfully, we’re just happy to be there — the concert picked back up with Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi. With a big voice that filled the arena on songs such as his hit ballad “Someone You Loved,” he hardly needed a mike.
Next up was Camila Cabello, introduced by Drew Barrymore. Making like a dominatrix in black latex, the former Fifth Harmony member commanded the stage, singing and dancing confidently. She hardly needed beau Shawn Mendes when she sat on a stool for a solo, stripped-down version of their hit duet “Señorita.” Mendes wasn’t missed.
But if the night belonged to another woman besides Swift, it had to be Lizzo. Having just been named Entertainer of the Year by both Time and Entertainment Weekly, Lizzo got perhaps the biggest cheers of the night. And making her Madison Square Garden debut, she owned the stage in a Santa suit that was far less revealing than that booty-baring thong getup she wore to the Los Angeles Lakers game last weekend.
Seemingly addressing criticism of that outfit, Lizzo told the crowd, “Do you!” And she proceeded to do Lizzo as only she can in an empowering and energetic set that ended with her No. 1 single “Truth Hurts.” As she skipped off the stage in a year that she keeps on winning, Lizzo had proved that she was the truth.
By Chuck Arnold