Is it necessary for the performance to continue? Tragic death of Taylor Swift fan raises awareness of risks at live shows amidst rising global temperatures.
In Brazil, a tropical nation known for its vibrant Carnival festivities held during the summer months, warm temperatures are typically not seen as a hindrance to musical gatherings.
Nubia Armond, a geographer from Indiana University Bloomington, stated that Brazilians consider the heat as an integral part of our identity formation. As a nation, we take pride in our ability to cope with high temperatures.
Unfortunately, a young woman passed away during a Taylor Swift concert in Rio de Janeiro, which was held during a severe heatwave. This tragic incident sheds light on the risks of extreme heat and the need for music events to adjust to the current era of rising global temperatures.
Last Friday, the temperature in Rio climbed to 39.1C (102.38F), drawing a crowd of over 60,000 to Estádio Olímpico Nilton Santos for Swift’s inaugural concert in Brazil as part of her iconic Eras Tour. Despite waiting in line for hours under the scorching sun, attendees braved the sweltering atmosphere inside the stadium.
Natália Cordeiro, a 29-year-old lawyer from Niterói, described the experience as something she had never encountered before. She compared it to being in an oven.
Cordiero’s “teenage dream come true” was finally fulfilled when she saw Swift perform live. However, the conditions at the concert made it difficult for her to fully enjoy the experience. She recalls enthusiastically participating during her favorite songs by jumping and singing along, but also experiencing moments of breathlessness.
More than one thousand individuals passed out, with recorded footage of Swift on stage revealing the 33-year-old singer appearing to have difficulty breathing as well.
Ana Clara Benevides, who was 23 years old, fainted during a performance by Swift of the song “Cruel Summer” and passed away in the hospital soon after. An initial examination showed that she had experienced small amounts of bleeding in her lungs, but officials stated that it was too soon to determine if the heat and lack of fluids were the contributing factors.
The Brazilian government quickly responded by implementing emergency regulations that permitted bottled water to be brought into concert venues. On Saturday, as attendees were already arriving at the stadium for Taylor Swift’s second performance, the organizers of the event, Time For Fun, decided to postpone the show due to the temperature reaching 42.5C (108.5F) and the heat index reaching 59.7C (139.46F), a measurement that takes into account humidity levels and other factors in addition to temperature.
The Brazilian authorities are currently looking into Time For Fun and there have been concerns about the organizers’ failure to adjust the event for the hot weather.
Based on reports from attendees, the stadium, typically open and well-ventilated, had screens blocking the vents to potentially block outside viewers, while the grass field was covered with metal sheets that became hot in the sun.
The spectators were prohibited from bringing their own snacks and drinks; smaller cups with a capacity of 300ml were costly and not easily accessible within the premises. Despite the intense heat, pyrotechnics were still used during Swift’s rendition of Bad Blood. Journalist Marcella Ramos described the experience as “hellish” due to the intense visual and heat sensations.
On Thursday, Time For Fun’s CEO Serafim Abreu released a video statement in which he acknowledged that the company could have implemented more actions in light of the heat and offered apologies to attendees of the concert. He also shared his sadness over Benevides’s passing and stated that the company is available to support her family in any way necessary.
Anita Carvalho, director of the Music Rio Academy, a school specializing in music and entertainment business, stated that in these circumstances, the entertainment industry must come to terms with the fact that the show cannot always continue. She also added that it would have been appropriate for the producer to delay or cancel the event, as it was clear that no one was prepared for such extreme heat.
Carvalho stated: “I am confident that [this show] will be a pivotal moment for the events industry.”
Nathalia Valladares, an enthusiastic attendee of concerts, holds tickets to attend performances by Paul McCartney in December and McFly next year. She believes that even Brazil’s famously passionate fans, who are known for waiting in long lines to secure the best spot at a show, will need to adjust. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw people wearing boots and gloves at Swift’s Friday show,” said the 33-year-old designer.
Armond is optimistic that the severity of Brazil’s current heatwave, following closely after another scorching period in September, will serve as a wake-up call for both government officials and the public to recognize the silent threat of high temperatures and the pressing nature of the issue. While a powerful El Niño event can partially explain the intense heat, Armond believes there are clear signs that climate change played a role.
Brazil is by no means the only country facing these heat-related considerations, however. Various concerts were cancelled earlier this year in Phoenix, as the US city experienced its hottest and deadliest summer ever. Elsewhere in South America, festivals held during two separate heatwaves in Argentina and Chile saw people faint, artists pause their shows, and criticism of inadequate infrastructure for the heat.
In 2022, data analysis by Yard revealed that Swift’s private jet emitted the highest amount of CO2 among all celebrities when not on tour. This has sparked criticism from US observers who accuse her of not addressing the abnormal heat and raises concerns about the role of influential pop stars in communicating about the climate crisis.
According to Armond, a climate expert, the effects of climate change are not limited to abstract areas of our lives. It also impacts our leisure activities, such as exercise and attending live music events.