Although Ed Sheeran’s first studio album, + (or Plus), was released back in 2011, it seems he’s now more popular than ever before. From appearances on James Corden’s Late Night Show and Game of Thrones, to stories of breaking hearts, and raising hell with Justin Bieber, Sheeran is everywhere.
I first heard of Sheeran when he came out with +. Although I enjoyed the songs, many were a bit too melancholic for me, despite an upbeat melody. I was not entirely in the mood to have my teen angst bubble up again, so I moved on to other artists. However, as Sheeran’s sound has changed and evolved, so too has my interest in him. Heading to Roger’s Arena Friday night, I had no idea what kind of concert I’d be seeing. I was pleasantly surprised.
The opener for Ed Sheeran was James Blunt. As I only knew one of Blunt’s songs, I was excited to hear what he had in store.
Most of the set list was from his new album, The Afterlove (released in March 2017), with a couple of exceptions. Blunt introduced one of these saying, “I hear most of you were conceived to this song.” He was speaking, of course, about “You’re Beautiful.” The audience laughed and as soon as the song began, they cheered with delight.
Blunt, I discovered, is an engaging and charismatic performer and an all around amazing human being. Fun fact: did you know Blunt is real-life hero? Check it out!
Blunt’s set list concluded with “1973,” a fast-paced song about celebrating good times past. He cast aside his guitar to play the piano for this tune. Near the end of the song, he even jumped on top of the piano. While dancing he whipped out his cell phone to take a picture of the thrilled audience.
As Blunt wrapped up, he introduced his band one by one, saying they’d all be leaving the stage, including himself. Then he joked: “Ed Sheeran will be coming on, just him and his loop pedal. Damn, a loop pedal…that’s so much cheaper than hiring a band.”
True to Blunt’s word, when Ed Sheeran took the stage, it was just him and his loop pedal. The sold-out crowd went wild as he began one of his newest hits, “Castle on the Hill.” Truth be told, when I first heard this song, I was not a fan. It took me a couple of listens before I started to enjoy the melody and appreciate how sweet the lyrics are. But Sheeran’s performance of the song was on point, as was the rest of his concert.
Sheeran’s energy was infectious and unexpected. With his style of music, I thought the performance would be more on the tame side. I was certainly proven wrong. Even though Sheeran was performing solo, he brought a large presence to the stage, constantly moving around, engaging with his entire audience, and creating unique rhythms through that wondrous loop pedal.
A majority of the songs Sheeran played Friday night were from his newest album, ÷ (or Divide), with a select few chosen from his previous albums, much to the delight of his fans. One of those was “The A Team,” in which Sheeran asked the audience to hold up their cell phones in order to light up the arena. He acknowledged the cliché request, but admitted he just really likes it; his fans definitely appreciated it as well.
A crowd favourite from ÷ was “Dive.” Sheeran, adept at catering to his audience, announced that Edmonton had sung this song the loudest yet on his tour. He then asked, “Can you sing louder than Edmonton?” Not to be outdone, Vancouver sang along with deafening excitement – and of course won the coveted title of loudest city.
One of my favourite things Sheeran does when looping is harmonize with himself. It really is incredible to hear, especially in “I See Fire” (written for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug soundtrack). This particular song demands a mystical, otherworldly sound, and Sheeran delivered.
The night continued with a good mix of slow, romantic songs and faster, jig-like ones. Then Sheeran told the crowd, “This’ll be the last song of the night, so make sure to sing along.” He closed with “Sing,” to which the crowd enthusiastically joined in. As Sheeran made his way off stage, the crowd continued to sing along, their cries for Sheeran reaching an ear-splitting level as they demanded the singer’s return.
The crowd went into a frenzy as Sheeran returned to the stage. When people realized he’d come out wearing a Vancouver Canucks jersey, there was even more screaming and clapping.
Sheeran finished the night with a spirited “Shape of You,” and an epic rendition of “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” in which Sheeran waved the Canadian flag while he sang.
The concert was truly a great surprise. I now see why it is that Sheeran is everywhere: he’s fun and captivating. But above all else, he’s a very talented musician who puts on one hell of a show.