I can write a novel detailing how Ed Sheeran’s latest concert is the best one I’ve watched this year. Instead, let me write a thousand words and hopefully I do the show some justice.
There are many things to gush about. I will focus on four specific aspects that I felt were the parts that worked perfectly – the concert set-up, the setlist, the overall production, and Ed Sheeran’s showmanship.
The Set Up
The set-up removed elements of the modern day concert experience that turn any show into a nightmare for fans.
Although the organizers didn’t enforce the rule, I find the practice of requiring attendees to prove their identities match with the names on the tickets to be reasonable. People trying to make a quick buck hated this for sure – hoarding tickets during presales and jacking them up for resale wasn’t going to happen. I was pleasantly surprised my purchase went smoothly.
The stage was small-scale that only Ed Sheeran, his loop pedal, the water bottles he had on standby, and his guitar, were the only things that could fit. This development was welcome news for the crowd as most of the saved space ended up as additional admission to the venue. Not to mention, the prices ended up lower than what most international acts coming to Singapore charged. A big chunk of the stadium was for standing only.
I felt these deliberate choices helped weed out those who WANTED TO SEE the show vs those who were DYING TO SEE the show. There are sacrifices worth making if the reward was an amazing show from Ed Sheeran. I stood in a queue for three hours. I sweat and waited in an overcrowded almost inhumane space for another three hours. I was running close to dehydration as drinking water may interfere with my highly coveted spot. I definitely broke my bladder. However, he delivered. I would say even more than what I expected.
I can scrutinize the setlist down to the last song choice. But I felt he struck a balance between the OG fans and those who passively consume his big radio hits.
The medley of “Lego House”, “Kiss Me”, and “Give Me Love” was a nice touch to commemorate the + era. He even closed the night with “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You”. I’m not the biggest advocate of his debut album. But as a fan, I respect his call to give it ample airtime. Many artists struggle to incorporate songs from their earlier eras. But he managed to squeeze them in for those who were craving for some nostalgia.
I would’ve wanted more low key tracks from ÷ (“Bibia Be Ye Ye”, “Barcelona” and “What Do I Know”). But I understand why he chose to cover his own composition “Love Yourself” instead.
The night’s highlights for me were “Sing”, “Bloodstream” and “I See Fire”.
“Sing” is underrated, often forgotten, and not top-of-mind when people speak of his discography. But that was a number one hit across the globe (except for the USA). When he gets into his verses and bursts into chanting with the crowd, the energy is unparalleled. The single deserves a stadium for its audience.
I was not a fan of either “Bloodstream” or “I See Fire” when they were released. I now understand both are meant to be consumed in a concert. While he was performing them, the two tracks were able to invoke solemnity and intimacy that none of Ed’s biggest ballads combined can generate.
The Overall Production
I’ve watched a lot of entertainers with big production designs. Madonna had pole dancers and tilted beds. Coldplay had balloons and wristbands that lit up with different colors. Ed Sheeran had nothing but a small stage and majestic backdrops.
The visuals were apt and can be construed as a glorified desktop screensaver. But the combination works. Maybe because his energy is enough to fill the crowd? He knows people sweating like crazy and screaming at the top of their lungs are more essential than any props and costumes he can buy. Not to mention, he’s saving a lot of money in the process.
When you make a 1-2-3-4 combo of the biggest love songs in the last ten years (“One”, “Photograph”, “Thinking Out Loud”, and “Perfect”), all the emotions in the crowd are bound to run high. The sentiment is sufficient to overwhelm the crowd’s senses.
Carrying a one-man show is impressive. I saw him using a loop pedal. Don’t ask me how that tool works. Google is your friend! I just know it requires skill and makes his artistry all the more attributable to himself.
He certainly knows how to carry a crowd. As someone deemed uncool for boyfriends to enjoy listening to, or fathers to consume, he had the sense of humor to acknowledge this dilemma, especially those spotted in his concert.
You can say he’s a sellout. But he definitely sold out that stadium. His tracks were meant to be sung along. That definitely helped. He constantly engaged with every trick in the rulebook – from cellphone flashlights to parting the crowd into two to coordinated hand motions. Are you surprised he’s currently sitting 2nd on the highest grossing tours of all time?
If I can see his show again, I would. Ed Sheeran can take my money away. Not only because I enjoy his music. I personally felt the show was a great representation of how a concert should be run. It was a community of people who had a shared interest in live music and had a blast together.