I first saw Ed Sheeran perform live in Spring of 2012 when he opened for Snow Patrol at the Aragon. The following fall, I saw him again, this time headlining at the Riviera. Going from an opening crowd, to a club crowd, and finally to an arena crowd in a little more than two years is a quick ascent, and I’m proud to witness it. Last week, I went to a couple shows (White Lung @ the subterranean, Metronomy @ Lincoln Hall) and they were, obviously, drastically different. And I hadn’t been to Allstate Arena since seeing the Jonas Brothers years ago (yikes).
UK group Rudimental opened, and I was excited—for a pop group playing big stages in the UK with bangers like “Not Giving In” and “Waiting All Night,” I was sure I’d be up and dancing with the teenies. But as the lights dimmed and I stood up ready to jam, I was the only one. Do the kids not dance to hype music anymore? The band was literally jumping and dancing across the stage, and I could only pick out a few people in the crowd getting into the music. I would’ve understood if the opener was boring and tasteless, but this was pop music!
After a quick stage turnaround, Ed walked onto the empty stage, save for a few speakers and his trusty state-of-the-art loop pedal. The screams were aggressive, and the pair of girls next to me were hugging each other in disbelief that he was real. They also knew every word to every song, and would rap to each other. Which was, you know, cute and all.
Ed puts on a no-frills show, and always has. Immediately jumping into opener “I’m a Mess” and barely letting a skip of silence pass in between songs, he was seamless. He played through most of his new album, a few crowd favorites from + and added a few lines from “Layla” (not many picked up on it), “No Diggity” and “Everybody (Backstreets Back)”. His first talking bit was merely routine, saying the whole “for the next (duration of show) my job is to entertain you, and your job is to be entertained,” that’s the same at every show of his. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing—if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it—and if anything, it brought me back to seeing him for the first time two years ago.
This routine was broken during the middle of his set, when he announced the next few songs would be switched up. He said he was going to play a song for the first time on the tour and that only a specific audience would really enjoy it. I got excited because I thought he was talking about some deep cut from one of his early EPs, but instead he bust out “All of the Stars.” Which, you know, was not a bad alternative. Next he played “Nina” for the first time live (flawlessly, of course) and followed with “Thinking Out Loud,” this time played with his electric guitar—which was wild.
“Bloodstream” was a sure standout, firstly because it’s my favorite song on X, and the crescendos and red lights made me remember why. I love Ed’s ability to jump from R&B sounds to white boy rap to coffee house open mic night vibes, and his talent at completely bashing sounds and loosing it amongst broken guitar strings and strobe lights, as he always does in “You Need Me I Don’t Need You.”
He puts on a smooth and flawless show, even if he lamely called the crowd “Chi-Town” (but who hasn’t). And while he seems to have his show down to a science, I can’t deny that I would happily see him every night, if I could.