Fans describe ‘unbearable’ Friday show

When Taylor Swift finally took the Eras Tour to Rio de Janeiro on Friday, fans — and even the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue — welcomed her with open arms. What was supposed to be a “dream” for thousands of Swifties quickly turned nightmarish, with the death of a fan in sweltering conditions.

NBC News spoke with four fans who were standing in various sections of the stadium during Friday’s show at Nilton Santos Olympic Stadium. They said they saw multiple people pass out. Water was also scarce because attendees were not allowed to bring it in.

Igor Paiva, 33, who traveled from the capital, Brasília, to attend Swift’s show, described “abysmal” heat, fans’ passing out by the dozens and a stadium that was “unequipped” to handle it.

“I regretted going as soon as I got there. … I was just drenched in sweat,” he said. “There was nowhere to go. We weren’t allowed to have water. There were no water fountains.”

Still, many fans were not as lucky as Paiva, who had tickets to all three Rio shows. Sunday’s show, he said, was as “smooth as it could be.” Swift performed in reportedly better — rainy — conditions.

For those who could only secure tickets for Friday, there was no concert do-over, and memories of their Swift show were clouded by the poor concertgoing experience.   

Parts of Brazil have been experiencing a heat wave since Nov. 12. Temperatures in Rio reached 88 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity at 66% around 6 p.m., according to Weather Underground, and Saturday was even warmer.

The city on Friday reported its highest heat index recorded since measurements began in 2014 — 138 degrees Fahrenheit — which broke the previous record set Tuesday, according to MetSul Meteorologia.

Paiva made the difficult decision to leave the Friday concert halfway through Swift’s 3 ½-hour set.

“I was feeling weak, nauseated. I had blurred vision. It was not a good place to be. So I made a decision to leave because I just could not bear it until the end,” he said. “I just could not find somewhere to catch a breath of fresh air.”

When he finally decided to leave, he couldn’t find an exit. 

“That’s when I began to realize how bad the situation was,” Paiva said. “When I left, it was not easy for me to find an exit, because everything was covered up; the gaps in the stadium were covered.” 

Paiva said that the stadium typically has more airflow, but that “wooden planks” appeared to have been drilled over the gaps in the stadium, turning an already stifling environment into an “inferno.”

He got a text from his friends in the general admission pit that said: “People are passing out. We need help. We need water.”

“There was just no way for water to get to people, even for them to buy water. They couldn’t leave their places. It was impossible,” Paiva said.

Time4Ffun, or T4F, the company that organized the Eras Tour in Brazil, and a representative for Swift didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a notice on social media Saturday morning, T4F said that it would allow fans to take certain water bottles and food into the venue and that free water would be available in the lines and in multiple places in the stadium. It also said more medical stations, ambulances and mobile ICUs would be made available. 

Rio’s city hall reiterated the change in restrictions for food and beverages on its social media accounts Saturday. The office said in an email statement on Monday that the stadium is property of the city, but was leased to Botafogo, a Brazilian football club, which has been responsible for its operations since 2007. NBC News has reached out to the team for comment.

Liana Hiltner, 24, a Brazilian fan from Salvador, said she experienced heatstroke at Friday’s concert and struggled to get medical attention.

“I knew it would be hot and did everything I could to not get sick, but I got heatstroke and had to look for medical attention,” she said. “My body failed me, but my dream kept me going.”

Hiltner said no medic was stationed in her section.

“I started to puke. I was shaking, trembling, and yeah, it was bad. I was sweating. I was pouring water over myself to cool down, and the vents were indeed covered,” Hiltner said, referring to the wooden boards that appeared to restrict airflow into the stadium.

The girl behind Hiltner was proposed to during the song “Love Story” and appeared to nearly pass out afterward. After the proposal, she told Hiltner: “I’m not feeling good. I’m not feeling good.”

Looking for water and medical attention while she was feeling sick was “hell,” Hiltner said. She was also afraid to lose her spot or be given medication that would force her to miss the rest of the show.

“It was my dream,” she said. “I would not lose my dream. I also had my cousin with me. It was also her dream.”

Andrea Rosas’ water bottle was confiscated at the entrance, and she struggled to access water in the stadium.

“As soon as I got into the stadium, I tried to buy water. There were some people going around trying to sell water, and I bought from them,” said Rosas, 29. “I paid, but they never came back with the water that I paid for.”

She was faced with a difficult decision: remain where she was and risk severe dehydration in the heat or go inside to buy water from the stadium itself and lose the spot she had spent hours waiting in line in the sun to secure.

“I decided to go inside and lose my spot to get water,” Rosas said, adding the water was about $2 and it was “not even a bottle that they were selling. It was just a cup of water.”

T4F said in its notice Saturday that it was not responsible for providing water and food at the venue.

Rosas traveled from her home in Lima, Peru, to attend all three nights of Swift’s scheduled shows in Rio de Janeiro. She said she “almost fainted, like, four times” during the show and got “really scared” when she saw a fan vomiting.

Rosas saw security dragging people over the barricade after they passed out. Many described people fainting during Swift’s set and being unable to get help.

“Other big shows, like Harry Styles and Coldplay, had general admission when they came here,” Rosas said. “It was not that. It was the heat, and the stadium was not ready.”

On the way home, she found out from social media that a 23-year-old fan had died.

“I cried when I found out. I felt like it could have been me, and I just thought about my mom,” she said. “I was like, this could be any of us in the stadium. So I’m trying to just thank God that I got home safe. But I was very, very sad.”

Swift wrote in an Instagram story early Saturday about the death of a fan before her show and said she felt “overwhelmed by grief.”

The fan, identified as Ana Clara Benevides Machado, felt unwell and was taken to the medical center and later to a hospital, where she died, organizer T4F said Saturday.

The cause of death hasn’t been released.

Joey Yagoda, 31, a New Yorker living in Argentina, described the water bottles the stadium was selling as “the size of a Jello cup.”

He recalled some water availability during the set of Sabrina Carpenter, Swift’s opening act. As the night progressed, Yagoda said, water access in his section tapered off and eventually stopped completely.

Swift herself started tossing water bottles into the crowd while she sang.

During the third “era” of the show, Swift paused the concert for several minutes as a group of fans screamed for water.

“Can I get a signal that you know where they are?” Swift said in a video posted to TikTok during Friday’s concert.  

Yagoda said it seemed as though Swift had realized at that point that the venue might not be equipped to reach people when they needed help. 

“Eventually, they started throwing water into the crowd,” Yagoda said. “Not just Taylor; like, somebody started throwing water in the crowd, and I’m not sure if it was Taylor’s people or the stadium people, but it wasn’t enough.”

The scariest thing, he said, was watching a girl faint in front of him. 

“She collapsed, and she was with a bunch of friends,” Yagoda said. “Then they picked her up — like, somebody tried to get help. … There was no way to alert somebody the way in the U.S. you can alert an usher.”

The girl’s friends tried to get the attention of security, and when they couldn’t, they eventually carried her out of the crowd themselves, he said. He saw multiple people pass out around him at the show. 

He thought at first that it was just his section of the crowd that was struggling. Before he knew the full scope of the issues in the stadium, he said, he was concerned about whether “there were enough people on the stadium site to identify where people were or to know what to actually do.”

Yagoda, who is familiar with the general admission format for most concerts in Latin America, attributed the “public health issue” at the concert to a confluence of factors: the extremity of the heat and the humidity, the lack of support from stadium staff members and the long lines in the sun required to secure prime views of Swift.

“There are just, like, so many really, really long lines for the stadium, and it’s going, like, many blocks around, so basically, we got there at maybe, like, 4:30 or 5 p.m., and you’re waiting in line for an hour to get in in the sweltering heat,” Yagoda said. “So that means that for some people, they were waiting in line since 7 a.m. on Thursday. You’re waiting in line for, like, 36 hours before you even get in.” 

Paiva said the VIP gates were supposed to open at 3 p.m. local time but opened over an hour late, forcing fans to extend their time standing in the sun before the show.

“Some people passed out because they were standing in line during the day, all day long, in the heat, with no shade, no restroom, no support,” he said. “If they left the line, they would lose their position, you know, so it was just insane.”

As news of conditions in the stadium and the death of a fan spread, some attendees and officials demanded accountability from T4F.

The heat during Saturday’s show was forecast to be even worse. New rules were announced that morning: Fans would be allowed to take food and water into the stadium. The barricades were lined with cases of water bottles, and the air vents appeared to be unobstructed, Rosas said.

The show was postponed an hour before it was scheduled to begin, after thousands of fans had spent all day in line and were already in the stadium.

“The safety and well-being of my fans, fellow performers, and crew has to and always will come first,” Swift wrote Saturday on Instagram about the postponement. The show was rescheduled for Monday.

“It’s really sad to think that Brazilians wouldn’t get a chance to experience Taylor like they deserve,” said Paiva, one of the attendees. “I don’t think Brazilians are to blame. I don’t think the fans are to blame. I honestly think it’s this corporation,” T4F.

Paiva said that he had been concerned about attending a show of such magnitude in Rio de Janeiro, which he acknowledged has problems with infrastructure and public safety, but that the conditions were far worse than he expected and mostly preventable.

“I don’t think that it’s impossible to go to a concert when we have heat like that, but I believe there was such bad decision-making for the first night,” he said. “Everything that could go wrong did.”

Swift is expected to perform Saturday’s rescheduled show in Rio Monday night.

The post Fans describe ‘unbearable’ Friday show appeared first on NBC News.

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