One guitar and a loop station is all Ed Sheeran needs to have a sold-out venue full of starry eyed fans flailing with excitement and awe. As Sheeran walks onto the stage in a red tee which clashes brilliantly with his hair and an acoustic guitar, the eruption of applause confirms that although it’s only been five months since his last tour, fans have been counting the days until his return.
With the setlist mostly from his triple platinum album +, the crowd eagerly chants the lyrics to the chart-topping singles including ‘Drunk’, ‘Lego House’ and ‘Give Me Love’, tracks off his earlier EPs and after some practice runs, nails the cover songs too.
It puts a massive smile on Sheeran’s face when the lyrics are screamed back to him, encouraged by his words: “We will judge you if you don’t sing!” His lyrics melt into shouts and screams whenever Sheeran added an extra, crazy fast rap verse to a song, but somehow the crowd manages to keep up when he mashes the chorus of Macklemore’s ‘Thrift Shop’ into the extended version of ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’.
It's something special to see Sheeran sing a duet with his mate Passenger (Mike Rosenberg) who’s been on tour with him for the past 15 months. They take a verse each from Passenger’s own song ‘Hearts on Fire’ and sing together for the chorus, each armed with only an acoustic guitar. While Sheeran certainly deserves all the applause he gets, it's refreshing to actually hear him sing this song without the echo of a thousand fans.
At last year's gig it was impressive when the audience of the Palais Theatre fell utterly silent upon request. Achieving the same result at a sold out show at Festival Hall tonight just goes to show how captivating a performer and songwriter Sheeran truly is. We're stunned into silence when ‘The Parting Glass’ – a hidden bonus track from the album ‘+’ – begins playing. With just his one guitar, Sheeran strips the traditional Scottish and Irish song right back before morphing the tune into ‘The A-Team’ for one hell of a finale.
It’s not just his rapping that’s speedy, Sheeran also has a knack for strumming and thumping his guitar fast enough to actually break strings. Almost inevitably, tonight is no different. By the end of the evening, Sheeran’s hair is dripping with sweat but he’s the type of artist that you’re more than willing to suffer through a hot, damp mosh pit for.