I am passionate about a lot of things: my family, seltzer, tea, music, Apple products, vampires…I’m going to stop here. But there are very few things I love more than words. I love the way they look next to each other, I love the way they tell stories, I love how they’re used to communicate emotion and most importantly I love the way they sound when paired with music. When I hear about an artist, band or song, I immediately research their discography to find a track that lyrically wrecks my soul. Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter what the music sounds like. As long as there’s an angsty lyric like, “Give a little time to me or burn this out/We’ll play hide and seek to turn this around/All I want is the taste that your lips allow,” I am sold.
When I was introduced to Ed Sheeran in 2012, it was his lyrics that roped me in. He was so young but had the emotional spirit of a man that had been through ages of relationship distress. Shortly after, I fell in love with his musicality (the way he manipulates his guitar and loop pedal = insane), his vocals (please research any and all videos of him singing “Wayfaring Stranger,” let it take you to church) and his genre-bending ways (he regularly marries his singer-songwriter sound with hip-hop and R&B influences, not to mention his beatboxing skills). Before tonight, I’d seen Ed as an opener, in small venues like Terminal 5 and in big arenas like Madison Square Garden. And even though I wasn’t an Ed or Hammerstein virgin, this night was still transformational.
He opened with his classic “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You“—a song that used to be one of his encores and ranges from 10-15mins long. Even though I’d gotten used to hearing it at the end of his shows, I agree with it as an opener. Ed likes to sort of share the stage with his audience. Tonight he acted as choir director, noise police, and call and response leader. So by the time “You Need Me” ended, the crowd was on fire and ready for an Ed Sheeran ride. Perfect choice!
On paper, and compared to other artists of Ed’s caliber, his 13-song setlist looks weak. But when you compare the length of the show and the, what I like to call, “Quality Realness” of his set, the show stands alone. When I started discussing Ed’s song choices with my sister and fellow concert goer, we were justifying the short set like we were in a debate round, “The length of one song alone could end up taking up the time of another performer’s three! He’s also on stage looping tracks in front of us and that takes time! It’s only him, his mic and guitar and he’s STILL killing it! Can we say the same for our other favorite musicians?” More times than not, we can’t.
He sang some of his old school hits, like “A Team” and “Lego House,” and mixed in some new songs like “Thinking Out Loud” and “Photograph.” We were also treated to two songs he penned for major films, “I See Fire” and “All of the Stars,” and Nina Simone’s “Be My Husband,” was the only full-length cover. It’s always funny to watch as Ed gets the entire crowd to yell, “Oh daddy, now now, love me good,” back to him.
This show was the show that brought me back into the fold. I admittedly had not been following along with his album release and was not up to date on what to expect in terms of new music. But when Ed took the stage and reclaimed my heart, I felt like I was home. He reminded me why I love songwriters and why I connect with the passion in his lyrics. His music overwhelms me and pulls on every emotional string in my body. So whenever I get the opportunity to see him, it’s always hard to pass up. I want to see him feeling the words he’s written and I want to be a part of his music-making experience. I’ve learned that with Ed, it doesn’t matter the venue. His music is so raw with emotion that he can hush any crowd and tear any venue’s roof down. I can’t wait to see him play stadiums…