IT happened just after the deafening response to the end of the song Champagne Problems. Instead of fading, the applause grew louder and louder.

And three minutes later it had still to peak. It felt like it would never end. Many in the audience were moved to tears.

A week later it’s still hard to fathom exactly what happened when Taylor Swift and a packed Murrayfield Stadium literally made the earth move last weekend.

I’ve seen some greats in their prime. The Stones weeks after the release of Sticky Fingers; David Bowie inhabiting his new role of Ziggy Stardust; Bruce Springsteen thrilling Edinburgh Playhouse to promote The River; Pulp reaching legendary status while grabbing headlining status at Glastonbury after the Stone Roses had pulled out... I have never seen or felt anything like that freezing night at Murrayfield.

I have never seen a crowd so entranced, so captivated, so committed to the moment, the celebration, the heartache, so happy with and so protective of each other. They came in all their finery: the glitter, the make-up, their best clothes, the cowboy hats. Straight, gay and everything in the spectrum. It was a pride march, a girls’ night out and a triumphant celebration of a generation plagued by anxiety but buoyed by love. A generation which is becoming the best of us.

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There are many wonderful aspects of Taylor Swift to enjoy, not least the sheer impact of a show which matched Springsteen for running time, surpassed everyone in terms of spectacle and underlined the power of music to banish post-Covid unease and forge an ecstatic testament communal joy.

But the most wonderful was the star’s innate understanding of her crowd. Its own performance had the singer transfixed in awe. She loved her audience almost as much as they loved and understood her.

That love is not universally shared. In the days leading up to the trio of Swift’s Murrayfield concerts I heard myself almost apologising for having a ticket. “She’s nothing special. I’ve heard it all before. Don’t you think it’s odd for a man of your age to be going there? Isn’t this for teenage girls?”

This is just a sample of the reaction from some male pals. One place you will never find Taylor Swift is on the cover of those glossy music mags aimed at (male) music fans, which have a very tight circle of “acceptable” stars to earn a place on the news stands. There are just three women judged worthy of entry into that clique: Kate Bush, Patti Smith and Joni Mitchell. Otherwise it’s males only. Mostly white males. We have not come anything like as far as we might want to think.

September 1974, Wembley Stadium, London. Joni Mitchell is the only woman on an all-star bill of counter cultural heroes which includes The Band alongside Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Mitchell has already started her transition from hippy chic to elegant sophisticate and her musical journey from autobiographical acoustic performances to sleek jazz landscapes.

The Canadian-American folk singer Joni Mitchell The Canadian-American folk singer Joni Mitchell

She is the only woman to step on the stage until she is joined briefly by Scottish jazz singer Annie Ross (sister of Scottish entertainer Jimmy Logan, fact fans) after a performance of her classic Twisted.

That day Mitchell performed some of her bare-all songs detailing her romances with a series of beau. Some of whom, including David Crosby and Graham Nash, would appear on the same stage later that night.

Mitchell’s entanglements have become the stuff of legend, including the story of how she announced her break up with Crosby by debuting (and then repeating) a devastating goodbye song in front of him and other friends at a private party.

Joni Mitchell has put enough years between her and those days of celebrity gossip to be lionised by the male music writers who guard entry into the contemporary music cannon. Taylor Swift, on the other hand, is still constantly pilloried for her popular image.

That row with Kanye. Those romances with Harry Styles, Tom Hiddleston, Calvin Harris; Joe Jonas etc etc. Her songs are inspired by her romances in exactly the same way as Joni Mitchell’s, yet she is afforded none of the respect that flows her way.

The classic All Too Well is a farewell to Jake Gyllenhaal every bit as brutal as Mitchell’s kiss-off to David Crosby in That Song About the Midway. More than 73,000 voices – word perfect – joined Swift’s at Murrayfield when she sang:

“And you call me up again just to break me like a promise

So casually cruel in the name of being honest

I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here

‘Cause I remember it all, all, all’’

Mitchell’s lyrics are now rightly regarded as poetry yet so many Swift songs are dismissed as trivial teenage pop by male critics (she’s 34).

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Such weird double standards are not just apparent in music. No matter how many profound messages on feminism and misogyny were packed into Barbie, it still lost out in the Oscars to Oppenheimer in an impossible-to-misinterpret message that a biopic on the man who invented the atomic bomb is just more, you know, serious. In a recently filmed conversation with Gillian Murphy, actress Margot Robbie described director Greta Gerwig’s Barbie set as a pink-drenched disco party. Whatever the Oppenheimer set was like, you just know it wasn’t like that.

Taylor Swift’s current Eras tour features more than 44 songs – which impresses most male music critics – and more than 16 costume changes – which very definitely does not. Most male critics value guitar solos more than costume changes. In a Bruce Springsteen three-hour show, taking off his waistcoat counts as a costume change. That doesn’t make it more worthy of respect.

In one of her best songs Swift reflects on how differently she would be regarded if she were a man.

“They’d say I hustled

Put in the work

They wouldn’t shake their heads and question how much of this I deserve”

Taylor Swift has a lot to say about feminism, whether with the reference to a “fuck the patriarchy” keychain in All Too Well or taking swipes at her own reputation as a maneater in Blank Space or the attacking stereotype of Mad Woman.

There’s no danger of the point of these, or indeed any of her songs, flying over the heads of her audience given its deep knowledge of her lyrics. None of the songs delivered at Murrayfield fail to encourage a mass singalong. Swift’s is a huge, engaged audience that understands completely the points she is making.

She does not always have her finger on the political pulse. Her commitment to combating the climate crisis, for instance, is questionable given the use of her private jet, which has attracted the ire of activists. She has made no comment on the genocide in Gaza, despite being urged to speak out.

But her support for women’s right to choose abortion, for LGBT rights and for gay marriage reflect and possibly even help to shape the dominant concerns among many of the younger generation.

She was initially reluctant to step into the political arena but has recently been an outspoken critic of Trump and Republican politicians.

The 2020 documentary Miss Americana shows her standing up to those in her inner circle who argued against attacking Republican policies, fearing it would alienate fans.

The staggering statistics around her current tour prove that they were wrong and she was right. Her criticism of republican candidate Marsha Blackburn – she labelled her “Trump in a wig” – didn’t stop the politician being elected to the senate to represent Swift’s home state of Tennessee in 2018, so she’s not all-powerful. However, experts believe she could wield huge influence on the US presidential elections later this year.

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She’s stayed silent on British politics and there’s no way of knowing the political views of the 200,000 fans at Murrayfield last weekend, nor their attitudes to Scottish independence, even if polls have suggested that support for Yes is the norm among younger voters.

If Taylor Swift has any relevant influence here it is in encouraging political engagement among the young. Her interjections have so far significantly swelled the number of young people registering to vote.

The audience at three sold-out gigs at Murrayfield, dressed up, danced, sang, and partied. But they also listened intently to songs that embraced support for equality, diversity, feminism and engagement.

They have connected to issues in a way that political parties have struggled to encourage among the young and that can’t be anything but good for hopes of a better, fairer and kinder world in the future.