About halfway through the set, the first light rain drops fell. Taylor Swift, her blonde hair cascading around her shoulders, looked up at the darkening sky over Gillette Stadium. She was smiling.
It was June 25, 2011, the first of two shows on her “Speak Now Tour” in Foxborough. Swift was playing “Fearless,” singing out the lyrics: “And I don’t know why but with you I’d dance / In a storm in my best dress.” Suddenly, a downpour unleashed on the more than 50,000 roaring fans at Gillette.
Swift performed the remainder of the concert in the pouring rain. The crowd, now soaked, was exhilarated. Some fans threw on hoodies, others ponchos. Fans who were there say they don’t recall a single person leaving early. Together, by the thousands, they danced and sang in the storm.
That show has achieved nearly legendary status even for Swift, who has called the performance one of her greatest memories, now a part of Swiftie lore. This weekend, Swift returns to Foxborough to perform three shows at Gillette, the first NFL stadium she ever headlined, for “The Eras Tour.” There, she’ll take the stage for the 13th time (her lucky number), and there’s a chance of rain Saturday and Sunday. The stars may be aligning for a repeat event.
Those who attended that 2011 concert — many then teenagers who are now young adults — this week recalled what has made it such an enduring moment. The Globe spoke with almost a dozen Swift fans who were in the crowd that night, nearly all of whom are attending at least one show this weekend. More than a few are praying for rain.
“It was incredible. I remember it being the best night of my 18-year-old life,” said Erin Foley, 30, of Boston. “Everyone was 10 times even more excited once it started raining, and Taylor made it so fun. Everyone was going crazy the whole time.”
Foley has been to many other concerts in the years since. If torrential rain had disrupted the show of any other artist, “it would have been a bummer,” she said. But not with Swift. “It stands out in my memory so clearly.”
“Instead, this ocean of people in front of us just started dancing even more, screaming even louder,” she wrote. “And that night I actually got to dance in a storm with them. In my best dress. I’ll never forget it.”
Swift released her debut self-titled album in 2006 at age 16. Now 33, with 10 studio albums, two re-recorded studio albums, and a number of tour, sales, awards, and streaming records under her belt, her appeal spans generations. From the stage of her first show in Nashville this month, Swift announced that “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” will be the next of her re-recorded albums to come out on July 7.
Many fans, like Meredith Cushman, 27, feel as though they grew up alongside Swift. She has attended 10 Swift concerts with her mom, and they will see her twice this weekend.
But it’s the rain show that stands out more than any other, said Cushman, of Manchester, N.H. To match one of the “Speak Now” album covers, Cushman wore a purple dress with cowboy boots, curled her hair, and wrote “13″ on the back of her hand. She felt the rain start to fall during “Fearless” and it “was one of those iconic moments that you couldn’t have planned any better.”
Elli Currie, 28, remembers Swift giving the performance her all even as she and the crowd got drenched, “rallying behind this bonding experience we were all having.” Singing and dancing in the rain is a constant throughout Swift’s catalog, Currie added, “so it felt like we were living that magic with her while it was raining.”
With “The Eras Tour” in full swing, Swifties who haven’t been able to score tickets have swarmed outside venues and watched one of the many livestreams of the shows each weekend. The rain show is a prime example of how Swift has managed to not only maintain her fan base, but grow it over the years.
“Taylor doesn’t bail on her fans when things get tough,” said Currie, of Boston. “Even when it’s pouring down rain, she’s going to keep having her show because she knows how much we love her, and she gives so much back, which is just incredible.”
Swift had her first rain concert of the “Eras Tour” during one of her shows in Nashville, and Currie said she’s “honestly just hoping for rain” at Gillette, too. “It’s just become part of our story together,” she added.
Nearly all of those who spoke to the Globe about the Gillette rain show said they are hoping Swift will perform “Long Live” as one of her surprise songs (she performs two at each concert). Before the encore in Foxborough in 2011, it was the song she closed out with, pointing at the crowd as the rain poured on the boisterous stadium.
“This has been one of the coolest nights of my entire life,” Swift said.