Two years ago, I remember watching an SBTV video that had just reached a hundred thousand views and today Suffolk singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran has reached global success with a quadruple platinum debut album, several awards under his belt and performances at the Queens Jubilee and at the Olympics. Say what you want about him but anybody who has seen him live surely cannot deny that he loves to perform and gives an incredible live show.
In the Oasis sports hall in Swindon (where the band took the name from), packed with pre-pubescent girls with orange paw prints badly painted on their faces, the night began with the first support act Passenger. What used to be a 5 piece band, the only remaining member Mike Rosenberg still uses the stage name for his solo career. Playing a beautiful cover of Paul Simons ‘The Sound of Silence’, the room did just that, bursting into a well-deserved round of applause at the end. Self-admittingly, Passenger played mainly ‘depressing ballads’, but broke up his set in the middle with the comedic track ‘I hate’ which received a fair amount of audience participation and an accurate reference to the X Factor – ‘bunch of money grabbing pricks’. A thoroughly enjoyable performance; he is playing the Brook in Southampton in January, check him out.
Second on the bill was Foy Vance, an Irish folk singer who, according to wikipedia appeared on ‘Stars in your Eyes’ in 1994. He started his set with a loop peddle track worthy of Sheeran,followed by an evener louder tune accompanied with a harmoinca. However, as his set drew out and songs became slower, impatience began to build amongst the 12 years around me with a few ignroant shouts. His set was decent, but was a slight anti-climax after Passenger.
Just after 9 an eruption of screams can only mean that the headline act has ran onto stage. Without acknowledging his crowd, Mr Sheeran starts the opening of his latest single ‘Give Me Love’. It’s clear from the onset that the night is going to be huge. As the song reaches it’s climax, Ed drags it on for a good few minutes, showing off his loop peddle skills and making as much noise as possible. Gone is the teenager I saw just over a year ago in Kingston. Tonight in a venue of 3000, a huge light show and video screens behind him, Ed confidently puts down his guitar and with what only can be described as swagger, jumps about the stage, controlling the audience with his every word. He proceeds to play most tracks off his debut album +, with the live versions being so much better, being stripped down to the basic raw level rather than the over produced sound of the album. Sheeran builds up the back track with his loop peddle on ‘Grade 8’ and half way through explodes into a rap segment from Lil Kim’s ‘Lighters Up’. The next track is poles apart, Sheeran demands silence and possibly the highlight of the night covers Jamie Woons version of ‘Wayfaring Stranger’, which can be found on Sheerans free One Take EP. Between songs, Ed engaged with the crowd, telling anecdotes of festivals gone, explains his loop peddle and comes back smoothly at any heckles. As well as songs from his debut, Ed covers Nina Simones ‘Be My Husband’ and also has both of his support acts back on stage to accompany him for a song.
When Ed announces that the next song would be his last, the 12 year old’s around me must not have understood the concept of an encore and made a quick exit, either that or their parents were in the car park. They certainly missed out. Live favourite ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’ went on for a good twenty- minutes, with Ed splitting the audience ‘West Side Story’ style into the ‘Jets’ repeating the chorus and the ‘Sharks’ adding ‘My Eyes are Red’, a sample from Bristol band Laid Blak’. Again, he showed how much he has progressed since making it to the mainstream, with new samples, new raps and a expert use of his loop peddle. As expected, the final song of the night was the one that kicked it all off. Yes, ‘The A Team’, is over played, but it was the song that accelerated this chap from Suffolk, to the worldwide recognition he deserves. The only negative point of the night was the lack of his pre-album material. With over 9 EPs , there is a wealth of material that I would have preferred to hear than some of the tracks on +.
Ed Sheeran’s multi platinum selling debut album is available to download on iTunes here.