Ed Sheeran

By on September 12, 2015
Ed Sheeran (photo Will Ogburn)

Ed Sheeran (photo Will Ogburn)

“I didn’t ever think I would have to do this, but I do. I’d like to take this time to give a disclaimer.”  Said Ed Sheeran in his unassuming British voice.

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

“All this music is live, it’s all me – I create it using loops – right here in front of you. I say this because an elderly couple complained that I was this fake man that used a track and invisible band backing him. I’m not. Now, let’s get on with the show.”

Even though he explained it, I’m still not exactly sure how one man can effectively replace an entire band in front of 16,000 people.

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

More on that later, but first let’s give some attention to the management side of Sheeran. The opening act, Jamie Lawson is the first signee to Ed’s record label, Gingerbread House.

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

Jamie Lawson

Jamie Lawson (photo Will Ogburn)

Jamie Lawson (photo Will Ogburn)

The Englishman took the stage to a torrent of female screams and sat unassumingly down on a stool. His young-looking face disguised a 39-year-old man with 12 years of experience at his craft.

He opened with “Cold in Ohio”, a somber song of longing. Jamie’s voice exudes sadness to the point of making you feel physically cold.

Jamie Lawson (photo Will Ogburn)

Jamie Lawson (photo Will Ogburn)

“This is a song about loving someone so much – that you kill them”, Jamie said. The crowd broke into half-confusion half-laughter, as he started strumming “A Darkness.”  Another sad one, this time about the step just before losing someone.

The five-song set-list was highlighted with “Wasn’t Expecting That,” his biggest single. The track from 2011 flips his usual tone for a minute with a playful song about unexpected love. Then she dies and it kind of falls back into the chasm of sadness.

Jamie Lawson’s career has found a new level of success under the wings of Ed Sheeran, and he has certainly found his niche. The future looks pretty bright for the man from Plymouth.

Jamie Lawson (photo Will Ogburn)

Jamie Lawson (photo Will Ogburn)

Christina Perri (photo Will Ogburn)

Christina Perri (photo Will Ogburn)

Christina Perri

Next on our docket of up-and-coming pop acts was Pennsylvania’s own Christina Perri. Where Ed got a publicity jump from appearing on Britain’s Got Talent, Christina burst onto the scene when one of her songs was featured on So You Think You Can Dance. What has transpired since that day in 2010, no one could predict: two chart-climbing albums, with world tours to compliment them.

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

Christina sauntered onto the stage, waving at fans with both hands. Her bubbly presence lit up the arena like a ray of sunshine.

Ed Sheeran and Christina Perri (photo Will Ogburn)

Ed Sheeran and Christina Perri (photo Will Ogburn)

 After a few smiles and giggles she began her first song, “Shot Me in the Heart.” The fun, repetitive track was perfect as an open – the kind of song that gets fans on their feet and a melody stuck in your head.

Anyone can make a catchy chorus, but the next song showed why Perri is a cut above most pop stars. A massive white piano was brought onto the stage, and Perri began the deep, siren-ish intro to “Arms”. She kept a straight face for the first time all night, and hammered away on the piano as the song built – weaving in her crisp vocals along the way.

Johnny Hanson with Christina Perri (photo Will Ogburn)

Johnny Hanson with Christina Perri (photo Will Ogburn)

The vocal chords also got a workout in “Run”, as she went from frolicking around the stage to gripping the mic stand – belting out the extended notes like a soul singer from Motown. She danced and sang with guitarist Johnny Hanson (who’s she’s rumored to be dating).

Christina looks to be crooning Johnny (photo Will Ogburn)

Christina looks to be crooning Johnny (photo Will Ogburn)

 The climax of her set was still to come, however. As expected, the performance of the night was “Jar of Hearts”.  Again she sat at the piano, and fans went ballistic as they recognized the familiar notes. They sang along like a church choir, their musical director bathed in white light from the piano. The fans, mostly teenaged girls, were some of the most individually involved that I’ve seen despite the massive size of the crowd.

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

 Ed Sheeran

The most remarkable story of anyone on the tour continues to be Ed Sheeran. The shaggy-haired ginger from Suffolk has gone from humble beginnings to headline a world tour that averaged $183 per ticket (glad I got in free). The road in between has seen Ed land a featured track in a blockbuster movie, a tour (and friendship) with Taylor Swift, and a mass of YouTubers wanting to marry him.

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

 It seemed like only a fraction of those girls could be in Orlando – but the deafening screech they let out as soon as the lights dimmed was borderline scary.

The king of low-key, Ed Sheeran walked out in a plaid shirt and jeans – looking more like was about to catch a trolley than enter an arena of screaming Sheerios. The Sheerios, of course, are his devoted fan club.

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

He echoed this image with his opener, “I’m a Mess.” The crowd instantly switched from cheering to singing the moment the first word left his mouth.

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

The stage was adorned with five massive screens behind him and a stage of broken glass under him. He danced around strumming his guitar, while creating the loops that made up his music.

Next up was Lego House – a soft, yet fast song that leaves you feeling somewhere between bummed and mellow. The reggae-ish rhythms combined with his signature silky vocals make the song easy listening for nearly anyone.

 The next high point in a set that featured a ton of them was the first of Sheeran’s mash-ups. Because of his fluidity with beats, he often mixes several songs together live. This time he mixed his hit “Take it Back” with Motown hits “Superstition” (Stevie Wonder) and “Ain’t No Sunshine” (Bill Withers). His timing was impeccable, and his freestyling was much better than his pastiness would indicate.

 It would be followed shortly with another mash-up – now with two of his own songs. “One” blended gracefully into fan favorite “Photograph”. He stated the “One” was the first song he wrote for the new album, which made it a perfect match for a song which music video shows the beginning of Ed’s life.

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

During the next matchup, the stage show was really taken to the next level. Part of Sheeran’s performance that I’ve left out so far was the amazing amount of production that went into the concert. While Ed’s music is all natural, the hulking screens behind him portrayed a collage of images, videos, and effects that corresponded with each song.

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

 The screens started off just showing Ed on stage as he played Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”. The chords seemed familiar, though the words didn’t, and it would soon be clear why. “Oh misty eye of the mountain below…” he began to another thunderous round of cheers. The high-pitched voices of the Sheerios squealed, hummed, and sang along as it morphed into “I See Fire” – Sheeran’s hit from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Suddenly, the giant portraits of the singer caught fire and it burned hotter and brighter as the song continued.

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

 After a few more songs, the mop-headed Brit looked at the crowd apologetically. “Now…that was technically the last song of the night…Technically. You know how these things work” Apparently, they didn’t. The sound of sadness cascading from the rafters was equal parts funny and kind of disheartening.

(photo Will Ogburn)

(photo Will Ogburn)

Protip: when you go to a concert and the artist says something like that…there will be an encore.

 When Ed returned to the stage, he proved that the best was yet to come. His next song was one of the most incredible live performances I’ve seen to date. It began with his song “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You”. He flew across the stage while mixing and rapping the fast-paced track, staying perfectly on beat. He looped layer on layer as the vocals and riffs built on each other, going faster each time.

 Suddenly, he stopped. Once again breaking the cultural norms of what a pale British guy is expected to do, Sheeran broke into a reggae song about smoking weed – “Red” by Laid Blak. He sang along with the chorus of himself as it faded back to the original song, much to the approval of the Sherrios parents. Then – never to be dull, Ed began rapping the first verse of 50 Cent’s “In Da Club”. It was at that moment that I felt old for the first time ever – realizing that most of the kids there weren’t in school yet when the song first dropped.

Next in this cornucopia of awesome came Drake’s “Know Yourself” – of course everyone knew that. Let me remind you, this is about the sixth time Ed started rapping during his set and he has yet to look derpy. The musical talent that this man possesses is truly special.

By the end of the night, Ed Sheeran managed to change my opinion – not only of him, but also of pop music in general. It’s good that creativity and musical ability can still occasionally shine through the murk of pop culture. Though I wouldn’t exactly pay $183 for a ticket, I would definitely see Sheeran again – just to see what he comes up with next.

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