The idea of having a solo, acoustic playing artist selling out an arena as vast and iconic as the London O2, and for four consecutive nights, initially may raise doubt. With the immense success of his ‘+’ tour, hitting the country’s largest arenas, nearly three years on, was the next inevitable step for the ever rising musician. Expectations were definitely high. But lets get something clear: on Sunday night Ed Sheeran proved to over 18, 000 people that he is certainly more than just a man with a guitar.
Supporting act Saint Raymond was in fact interviewed by The Edge in April following his performance at the Southampton venue, The Joiners, where he confessed to having a somewhat “bizarre year”. Having now begun his tour with Ed Sheeran things are certainly not about to become any less tame for the nineteen year old. Saint Raymond seemed, like many of Sheeran’s own songs, a familiar nod to the now headlining artist’s roots. Yet the fellow guitar wielding singer-song writer, along with his accompanying band, had a sound distinctive to that of Sheeran. The Bastille reminiscent melodies, switched up with guitar licks and instant dance inducing, popular-indie rhythms worked well to get the audience out of their seats. Having toured and gigged himself, the singer gave off a confidence and undoubted coolness, with his live performance living up to the slick sounds of his album. Wasting no time in between songs and already having his lyrics being chanted back at him, Saint Raymond won over the arena, particularly the standing audience, after his first song, ‘Everything She Wants’. Although, he most likely won them over long before this, when hours earlier he sung to the queuing crowd outside the arena doors; a welcome surprise to those, myself included, who had been queuing for far longer than I’d like to admit.
To see such a massive and packed out arena absolutely lose it for this one artist, as he jogged on stage in his signature open checked shirt and white tee, was almost surreal. Getting straight into his first song, ‘I’m a Mess’ seemed his way of announcing, “I’m Back”, and to say the audience welcomed it is an ultimate understatement. Smiling out to the crowd and hitting his guitar with beautiful ease, it was a concert opener that had everyone raring to see what else he had prepared.
With X being named one of the fastest selling albums of the year yet, it would’ve been understandable to allow the success of his second album to overshadow the show. Yet in true Ed Sheeran style, he made sure his roots were not to be forgotten, breaking out into a number of + favourites, including ‘Lego House’, ‘Drunk’ and ‘Kiss Me’, allowing for optimum mass sing-along action. Most heart shatteringly though, ‘Give me Love’ had Sheeran silencing the screams of the entire audience. Ed had a favour to ask: for us to act as a hushed choir for the songs whispered beginning, which had an effect I was just in awe of. 18,000 people whispering the lyrics of desperate love with even the hysterical fans playing along seemed like something only Sheeran could pull off to that end. Though this was also the man that had us weeping at his rendition of ‘Thinking Out Loud’. Of course we were allowed to lose our minds again for his more upbeat songs. ‘Don’t’ allowed us to appreciate his live loop pedal skills, and with only one brushed off technical hitch, it was astounding how he could use this instrument to fill venues like the Apollo and the O2 to the same rhythm smashing effect. His loop pedal also let him sneak in a couple of mash up on liners, subtly and flawlessly dropping in a bit of ‘Loyal’ and ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy.’ As well as singing along, at this point I’m in the standing crowd wondering what this man can’t do live.
Over an hour in, and despite him playing a majority of both his albums and even having time for a chat between songs, albeit to a medley of screaming responses, his set list was over. He was thanking his fans and heading off stage, the lights were back on and yet there was a sense of denial. No one was having it. Of course he was heading back to the stage, guitar in hand, after only a minute of demands of an encore. To our defense, he loved it. Those sly smiles to himself as the audience sung the words for him in between breaths proved as much. His encore only confirmed his first O2 night as a success, finishing up with his famously prolonged ‘You need me, I Don’t need You/My Eyes Are Red’, and a fond throwback to the song that seemed to catapult him into fame, ‘A Team.’
It was an experience as well as a success. What I have learnt is that while I sadly don’t know Ed Sheeran personally, going to see him live is basically the same thing. He gives off an air of intimacy in his performance that allows any gig to become personal. It’s the equivalent of having him in the your top 3 best friends on snap chat. And that’s pretty personal.