Live Review: Ed Sheeran + Ben Kweller @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver – September 1st 2023

On a crisp September evening in the heart of Vancouver, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre played host to a special musical journey. Ed Sheeran, the globally acclaimed British singer-songwriter, took the stage for a night that defied expectations, showcasing his versatility and depth as an artist.

This show was special. As part of the current tour, Sheeran is performing a theatre show on one evening in a number of cities, followed by the main stadium show on the next night.

Before Sheeran’s arrival, the stage belonged to Ben Kweller, an artist hailing from San Francisco. Kweller, armed with an acoustic guitar and a piano, embarked on a heartfelt solo performance that captivated the audience. His Southern-style singer-songwriter sensibilities shone through, weaving tales of life and love into poetic lyrics. While his set was short, it left an indelible mark, setting the perfect tone for the evening ahead.

As the anticipation built for the main event, it was clear that Ed Sheeran was determined to make this night extraordinary. The setup was unlike his typical stadium shows, these theatre shows were intimate and personal. Accompanied by a full band that included a remarkable all-female string section, Sheeran set the stage for an unforgettable evening.

Sheeran’s excitement was palpable when he addressed the crowd, sharing his lifelong dream of performing with a talented band in a theatre setting. To kick off the night, he performed his latest album, “Subtract,” in its entirety. The audience listened with rapt attention, immersing themselves in the emotional and powerful journey of the album. Sheeran paused between each of the ten songs to offer insights into the profound experiences that inspired his writing. Side A of the album was heavily influenced by the loss of his dear friend Jamal Edwards, while Side B drew from moments with his infant daughter and the embrace of family.

Sheeran’s voice filled every corner of the theatre, enriched by the harmonious cohesion of the band. The experience was nothing short of magical, with the music resonating deep within the hearts of the audience.

The night’s arrangement was divided into three segments. The first featured “Subtract” in its entirety, setting a contemplative and emotive tone. Then, Sheeran embarked on a solo segment, using his loop machine to perform his chart-topping hits. This marked the “Happy Hour” segment, where the initially seated crowd leaped to their feet, transforming the theatre into a lively rock show. Sheeran’s energy was boundless as he ran across the stage, skillfully employing his loop machine.

The final segment was a revelation—Sheeran delved into songs from his upcoming album, “Autumn Variations,” set to release on September 29th. He requested that no one record this segment out of respect, and the audience complied. The new material showcased Sheeran’s growth as an artist, with a production credit from Aaron Dessner of The National, a collaboration catalyzed by Taylor Swift’s previous work with Dessner.

The culmination of the night was an acapella performance of “The Parting Glass,” a traditional end-of-the-night pub song. This seamlessly transitioned into an unplugged version of “Afterglow,” with Sheeran accompanied solely by his guitar, without a microphone or amplifier.

Ed Sheeran’s captivating presence graced the stage for nearly two and a half hours, leaving an enduring mark on the audience. It was a night of pure musical magic, an exploration of emotion and artistry that transcended the boundaries of the theatre. Sheeran’s ability to connect with his audience, coupled with his extraordinary talent, solidified this concert as one of the finest experiences in live music.

  1. Nice review — I am amazed that he’s doing these smaller venue shows, I’ve only seen him once (opening for Snow Patrol at the Orpheum (just him and his guitar),) he was pretty good then too.

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