LAS VEGAS —
She did, however, give a buzzy performance that paid homage to her close connection to her fans. The singer started out standing inside a round cage, which hung low over the audience at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. As she kicked into the second verse of the inspirational ballad "Change," she rose up above the screaming masses and floated in the air across the arena, touching down in the middle of the crowd and dramatically ripping off her floor-length white dress to reveal black jeans, a black tank top and black boots as she smacked high fives and marched across the floor to the main stage.
There she was joined by the Tritones, a University of California San Diego a cappella group she reportedly spotted on YouTube after the act uploaded their version of "You Belong With Me." It was a typical move by the fan-friendly Swift, who skipped talking to the press on the orange carpet before Sunday's show, but ran out to sign autographs, shake hands and take pictures with the fans behind the barricades outside the arena just 15 minutes before the show was to begin.
The rousing, gospel-tinged performance ended with Swift holding a long note on the word "hallelujah," spinning wildly in circles, flipping her hair side-to-side and then stage-diving into the outstretched arms of some handlers in the crowd.
She was introduced by the odd-man-out at the show, rapper and "NCIS: Los Angeles" star LL Cool J, who said he was just on hand to support his country homegirl. "I got a call and they asked me if I wanted to introduce Taylor Swift, have some fun, check out a different genre," LL explained before hitting the stage. "And I said, 'You know what, I'll be out of place, and it'll be strange, but I've never done it before in my whole career.' I'm a fan of some of the music. I thought would just be cool to do something different. No pressure. You know, I don't have to pretend anything. I don't feel funny if somebody wins, 'It shoulda been me.' 'Cause it couldn't have been me!"
It's not the first time LL hooked up with Swift, with whom he also co-hosted a Grammy nominations special in 2008. Asked if this might be his entrée into the world of country, à la Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson's "My Medicine," LL laughed and said it wasn't likely.
"I'm not saying it's impossible," he said, noting how Run-DMC and Aerosmith pulled off an unlikely rock/rap crossover move more than two decades ago. "But I'm not here for that. I'm not networking, I'm not politicking. I'm just here having some fun."
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