Ed Sheeran is a fantastic musician. Let’s just acknowledge that for a second, because I feel the UK singer’s star has risen so high over the past decade that many people often forget that. A pop star? Sure. A rock star? Equally sure. There’s unfortunately still a tendency in society to disregard someone’s credibility as a musician when they reach a certain level of fame, but only a fool would have watch a Sheeran performance and not walk away singing anything but praises for the 23-year-old artist.
Let’s backtrack a bit.
Ed Sheeran performed at Sydney’s Accor Stadium to around 172,000 people across two sold-out nights. So sold out, in fact, that Sydney Olympic Park had to change their policy regarding booking parking spots in advance. Parking was sold out as early as last week, and the website has now changed its recommendation, urging people to reserve parking spots at least 10 days in advance.
But that’s not really a surprise.
Ed Sheeran is now one of the biggest names in music, and the most bankable. Many songs have taken his star into another galaxy over the years, but his best has come in just the past few. Heartfelt ballads “Perfect and “Thinking Out Loud,” dancefloor-friendly bangers like “Shape Of You.” The man has hits and has no issue reminding us of that with an epic two-hour performance packing in all the essentials and peppering more than enough off-cuts to satisfy fans.
Coodjinburra singer Budjerah and UK singer Maisie Peters benefitted greatly from being on support. Both clearly brought their best for the sold-out crowd and would have walked away from that gig knowing they had tens of thousands of new fans.
Having such strong support acts also built up a nice, energetic atmosphere that surrounded Ed’s impressive stage – a circular, rotating monstrosity shooting off onto little platforms. Each of Ed’s band members had their own platform around the stage, making the closest seats feel like they were actually on the stage with Sheeran. Being able to have that intimate feel in a stadium like this means the set designers have done an excellent job.
And I guess it’s this contrast between intimacy and extravagance that made the performance much more meaningful than it would have been otherwise. Of course, you’ve got that sincerely heartfelt songwriting powering Sheeran’s songs, but you also have an uncanny ability to make things seem and sound much larger than they actually are.
And I would put it down to the pace of Sheeran’s career throughout the years. For a great deal of his early career, Sheeran was committed to using just his voice and his guitar. It wasn’t until later that he started enlisting the help of fellow musicians. But I’m not quite sure he needs it. Due to these early days of minimalism, Sheeran has developed an extraordinary ability to produce a stadium-sized sound just from playing on his guitar and using it to its full potential.
That isn’t to say the band members didn’t add value. They helped add necessary textures and fill out songs like “BLOW” and “Galway Girl,” lifting Sheeran’s voice across the large stadium so each song had its full impact.
There were many elements that made Sheeran’s concert so satisfying. He’s obviously incredibly likeable, modest and generous with his time. His banter was great. He didn’t need any unnecessarily self-deprecating humour to feel relatable, given it’s his humility that allows him to write the kind of music that he does.
At the end of the day, that’s what mattered the most. Not just that Ed Sheeran is a fantastic musician, building his work before us and making sure each and every song landed perfectly, but he’s also just a really good guy.
Downsides? There were hardly any, but from where I was sitting – which was quite close to the stage – you could, unfortunately, notice a bit of an echo around the arena. Of course, speakers need to push sound further than just the immediate area around the stage, but often the music would be so quiet and gentle that you’d really notice when say a drum kick would echo discordantly behind you.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Ed Sheeran tour continues to Melbourne (2nd and 3rd March) and Adelaide (7th March). Limited tickets may still be available. Check HERE for details.
Photos from Bruce Baker – to see more of Bruce’s photos from Ed’s show on Friday night – click HERE