Cupcakes and ticket warnings: Paris ready for sellout Taylor Swift shows

Cupcakes and ticket warnings: Paris ready for sellout Taylor Swift shows

She may be the owner of a bakery in the centre of a city famous for its millefeuilles and religieuses, but in recent days Beth Beji’s team has been fielding requests for a rather different sort of cake: a Taylor Swift-themed sweet treat.

“There is a huge obsession with Taylor Swift and we see it in the orders coming in,” said Beji, of Clove Bakery. “We’ve had a lot of orders for custom layer cakes, cupcakes, cookies featuring her. We’ve had requests for Taylor Swift on a stage with a microphone in fondant, Taylor Swift riding a unicorn, Taylor Swift album covers, cakes with her face on them … The orders are very specific in the details.”

Beji said her team at the bakery on rue Greneta, near Les Halles shopping mall, were getting into the spirit of things. And as the countdown begins in the French capital to the arrival of the singer’s Eras tour on Thursday – her first performance of a three-month European trip – they are not the only ones.

Honor McWilliams, 24, a Swiftie from Glasgow who lives in Paris teaching English at the Sorbonne, can hardly contain her excitement over attending the opening concert at La Défense, the first of four long-sold-out gigs on 9-12 May. She will also attend on Saturday with her sister Grace and two friends who are flying in from Glasgow, and will be travelling to Milan for a third concert in July.

After previously seeing Swift perform in London, Glasgow, New York and Dublin – and meeting her briefly in London after being picked out of the crowd by Swift’s mother – McWilliams has spent a total of €255 for the Paris tickets and has been babysitting to pay for them. “To this day my love of Taylor Swift has been a cornerstone of many of my personal, and even professional, relationships,” she said.

Honor McWilliams and her sister Grace with Taylor Swift in 2014 (left) and in 2021 with a lifesize cutout of the singer. Photograph: Honor McWilliams 

“I connect so much with the French university students I teach here because of our shared love of Taylor Swift. Each week they’ll ask me for my opinion on the latest Taylor Swift news, and I will find any way I can to make reference to her in lessons. One student even termed me the ‘Taylor Swift of the Sorbonne’, which may very well be the best professional compliment I will ever get.”

What is the core of Swift’s appeal? McWilliams cites “the eloquence of the lyrics in her songs, her work ethic, gravitas, her intelligence and captivating ability to tell stories, connect with others and generate such enthusiasm.”

Swift’s popularity has been a slow burn in France, where she gave her first concert in 2010. There was a touch of Emily in Paris to the official video for Begin Again, a 2012 song from her fourth studio album Red. Shot in Paris, it shows her as the quintessential American in Paris, writing postcards, walking on the Pont des Arts and visiting a patisserie as she meets a handsome stranger who approaches her in a cafe.

Swift arrives in Paris for a TV appearance in 2014. Photograph: Marc Piasecki/GC Images

She continued to associate the city with romance. The only concert to promote her 2019 album Lover, a wondrously lovestruck album written amid her relationship with the actor Joe Alwyn, was performed in Paris – a show entitled City of Lover, performed at the relatively intimate Olympia venue. She then wrote a song entitled Paris for her 2023 album Midnights, where Swift, “so in love that I might stop breathing”, imagines being with her partner in the city. “I wanna transport you to somewhere the culture’s clever”, she sings, adding “let the only flashing lights be the tower at midnight” – a reference to the glittering light show put on by the Eiffel Tower.

It all adds a certain frisson to her tour opener this week, but Prof Linda Bloss-Baum, an assistant director of the business and entertainment programme at American University’s Kogod School of Business in Washington, says Swift’s arrival is a big deal for any city.

Fans wait outside the Hotel de Crillon in 2013. Photograph: Marc Piasecki/FilmMagic

“It has an incredible economic impact. I know many American people who have opted to take a trip to Europe to see Taylor Swift because the tickets were more affordable. They’re making a holiday of it, so it’s not just the tickets, it has an economic benefit for the whole city with people staying in hotels, eating in restaurants. The ripple effect with Taylor Swift is amazing, unprecedented.”

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She added: “France has always been a bit of an anomaly in terms of the music business, with perhaps a little less appetite for US pop as a genre, but Taylor Swift is an exception. She seems to generate an emotional reaction from people who don’t necessarily even speak English but want to be part of the phenomenon. I think what has happened is that, post-Covid pandemic, people are seeking an experience and this is the experience people want this year. It’s top of their list. The average concertgoer is not holding back in spending. They’re forging a lifetime marker.”

The Paris concerts are especially anticipated because they are the first following the release of Swift’s enormously successful new album The Tortured Poets Department, which has broken a series of streaming records since its April 19 release. Fans are hoping that she will append material from the album to the Eras setlist.

Swift performs at L’Olympia in Paris in 2019. Photograph: Dave Hogan/Getty Images

The conservative newspaper Le Figaro has even got in on the Swift act with an article advising desperate, ticketless Swifties on how to avoid being ripped off with fake tickets.

The official price was between €69.50 and €245.50 for seats and up to €827.40 for VIP packages. Warning that resale prices were likely to be higher and could involve counterfeits, the paper warned: “If you haven’t bought your ticket on an official site there’s no way to easily verify the authenticity or validity of a ticket.”

At Clove Bakery, the team is working flat out to have all their orders ready on time. “It’s incredible, and not what we set out to do when we opened the bakery seven years ago, but it’s also a lot of fun for the bakery team who are all young and getting involved in the excitement too,” Beji said.

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