Given her stature in the entertainment world, superstar Taylor Swift could have invited onto her stage anyone she so desired during her Saturday night concert at Staples Center.
Barring the pope, who was busy at the Vatican, or Kanye West, who was occupied a few miles away at the FYF Festival, the platinum-selling Swift had her pick of the litter, talent-wise, on the second of her five-night stint in downtown Los Angeles.
So who’d she invite to help celebrate her 1989 World Tour’s Los Angeles dates? A curious mix of star power. The multi-talented actor-singer Uzo Aduba, best known as “Crazy Eyes” on “Orange Is the New Black,” sang a duet on Swift’s early hit “White Horse.” Sitting on stools before an arena full of adoring fans, the pair moved through the song like natural collaborators.
During “Style,” Swift swaggered down the catwalk with male model Sean O’Pry and actor-comedians Matt LeBlanc and Chris Rock. Thankfully — or unfortunately — none of that non-sequitur power-trio joined her to sing. They just smiled and grooved, looking as confused by their presence as we were.
Swift saved the best for last, when she introduced a song she said she’d never performed onstage before: Mary J. Blige’s “Doubt.” Taken from Blige’s most recent album, “The London Sessions,” the selection was a left-field pick. The bigger surprise, though, came when Swift welcomed Blige herself onto the stage to sing with her.
It was a gutsy move, standing alongside one of the most powerful R&B singers of the last 20 years. As they sang, the pair swayed while fans danced along. If Swift’s base didn’t scream the words to “Doubt” with the same gusto as they’d given to “Blank Space” earlier in the set, the amplitude upped a level when Swift asked Blige to stay for another song.
That pick? “Family Affair,” Blige’s heavy 2001 funk-soul jam. Produced by Dr. Dre, “Family Affair” is so propellant with its rolling rhythm that it could have flattened Swift. That didn’t happen; she at least kept up with Blige. But that didn’t lessen the shock of watching her bump alongside an overpowering, percolating Blige and insisting that “‘you know we gots to get it crunk.”
But then, Swift working to get crunk was only one shocker during a Saturday also spent with Crazy Eyes and Joey from “Friends.”
Below, the set list for Night 2.
Welcome to New York
I Knew You Were Trouble
I Wish You Would
How You Get the Girl
I Know Places
White Horse (duet with Uzo Aduba)
You Belong with Me
Style (with Sean O’Pry, Matt LeBlanc and Chris Rock)
Doubt (with Mary J. Blige)
Family Affair (with Mary J. Blige)
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (rock version)
Out of the Woods
Shake It Off
Swift will conclude her run at Staples with dates on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit