Three years ago now, Ed Sheeran, reserved and scruffy, walked out on the Shepherds Bush Empire stage with just his guitar in hand to warm up for Just Jack. His shy character was infectious, and when he sung the fledgling crowd of early arrivals stopped to listen…
…three years later, a number one album under his belt, Ed Sheeran stepped out on to the Hammersmith Apollo stage. Shyness replaced by assured confidence and swagger, still just a guitar in his hand. Some things have evolved in Ed Sheeran’s performances and something’s are very much the same.
Leading with (in my opinion) his best song Ed Sheeran dominated the stage like a rock-star. The emotion of Give Me Love powered through the sold out crowd. His presence, somewhat nervous before, is now rock-solid. His creativity continues to shine as he turned the ballad in to a musical epic; including a Jimi Hendrix esque attack of his acoustic guitar before the punchy climax.
This new found belief, the belief that can only come from selling so many records and selling out so many venues, has added another dimension to the shows, given him another weapon to play with. This bravado which appears from time to time injects a new excitement in to the show. This came to the fore during his rendition of You Need Me in which we went on to rap his way through various renditions including a snippet of Devlin’s verse from the remix.
This new element to the show makes the times he reigns in, the times he settles down even more impactful. Small Bump was at his most heartbreakingly beautiful.
Ed remains big on crowd participation and still uses the them to provide harmonies, and give random hugs to strangers. This is a greater challenge in front of 5,000 than when singing to a couple hundred yet for the most part it works. The struggle comes from trying to keep that many people quiet for songs like Wayfaring Stranger. Still determined to sing the end completely acapella without any amplification was both bold and magical. Only to be spoilt by a few w**kers who felt the need to shout during the silence (seriously, if you pay to come to a gig, enjoy yourself… don’t ruin it for people, a**hole – no you’re not big or funny!).
Even though he was playing to thousands he still very much treated it like a show at the back of a pub in Finsbury Park. His warm personality still translates across the crowd. It is also a very nice to touch to invite his warm-up acts on stage to sing with him. His duet of Heart on Fire with Passenger looks destined to be a B side on a future single.
During the concert, he mentioned the greatest compliment was having the words he wrote is his bedroom sung back to him. Indeed, the whole concert felt like a mini-karaoke session at times. As I looked around, word for word, so many seemed to have learned the lyric sheet.
Seeing Ed Sheeran on stage with such confidence and still not afraid to try new things really does put faith in to music. The fact he stills writes songs with meaning; not just about going down the club spending money, continues to be refreshing and make him stand-out to a generation who are force-fed nonsense music.
It was quite emotional to see the guy you’ve been rooting for actually make it; still with just a guitar in hand, loop-pedal and no gimmicks. It is so rare for artists to breakthrough with talent alone, yet Ed has done just that. The scary thing is I do not think we have even touched the tip of the iceberg and I feel there is a lot more to come from Mr. Sheeran.
Indeed, the next stop will no doubt be the O2. And I bet it’ll still be just him, his guitar, his loop peddle… doesn’t need anything else to fill the stage!
[pics from back of Hammersmith Apollo to follow]