Last night I saw the best live show of my life. No, this is not an exaggeration. Yes this includes Bon Jovi. Never have I been so impressed by a performance. I have also never said “fuck off” and shaken my head in bemused awe as much as I did last night. Ed Sheeran may very well be the most talented, hard-working musician on the planet. And you can tell the rest of them that I said that.
But I’ll get to Ed in a minute. I’m gonna do this chronologically.
Anyone who has ever been to a live gig will tell you that 80% of the time the support acts suck. Like, “can the first song be your last song?” kind of suck. But not last night. No, last night, the supporting acts were amazing.
First off the bat was one Conrad Sewell, a Brissy boy. From his first song, my sister and I were spellbound (yes, second gig this year with my sister, she’s awesome!). Sewell had a voice that got under your skin. I got goosebumps multiple times, and there aren’t many vocalists who can do that. My sister and I found ourselves looking at each other in amazement at the end of every song. And when his set ended – far too soon – I almost started chanting “one more song”. There was a small group of people who actually did for a millisecond before realising that if Sewell played a longer set, then Ed Sheeran would take longer to come out. So I think that group of Sewell got out “one more so—” before realising what they were doing. This being said, I will go to a Conrad Sewell gig if I hear of one. The man is talented! I insist you look up his song “Hold Me Up” this very second.
And, did I mention, that it was just Conrad on vocals and a bloke on piano for his entire set? Yep. Impressive.
Next was Jamie Lawson. This man was a revelation. Just him and his guitar for his entire set. He played upbeat songs, and he played dark songs. He actually played one of the darkest songs I’ve ever heard played at a gig, and I’ve seen My Chemical Romance live. He was self-deprecating and captivating. And didn’t do that gimmicky thing supports always do where they mention the headliner (you know what I mean, the ol’ “who’s excited for >insert headlining artist here<?!” just to guarantee a really loud scream while the support is on stage). Lawson let his music speak and instead thanked Ed Sheeran for bringing him on the road. He did something very clever though, and said that one of his songs was “probably the reason I was brought on this tour” and that “Ed Sheeran likes this song”. That may be the best plugging I have ever heard. Clearly we were all there to see Mr. Sheeran, but by saying that Ed Sheeran liked one of his songs, Lawson essentially guaranteed a huge spike in his downloads. Genius.
And then the man himself. The redhead with a voice like an angel. Mr. Ed Sheeran. The man is a musical god. This is what he had on stage with him:
- Two microphones
- A loop pedal
- A guitar
This is who else he had on stage:
He did everything himself. Everything. He didn’t prerecord any backing tracks. He did everything on the fly, off the cuff (rehearsed, obviously), and flawlessly. I was beyond awe. I can’t even think of an appropriate adjective for how I felt when he pulled off the cacophony of sounds in “Give Me Love” we’re used to hearing on the radio.
He opened with my favourite song of his: “I’m a Mess”. When a live act plays my favourite song, I get way too excited. And I’ll tell you what else, how someone can keep an entire venue as big as Riverstage riveted with only a guitar is a mystery. But Sheeran is a musical marvel. He kept us all completely entranced from beginning to end.
Ed Sheeran’s music is moving. It always seems to move you in some way or another. Whether it’s to tears or to joy or to anger, Sheeran always makes you feel something. For 99% of the gig, I was ecstatic and awed and simply buoyant. But for about a minute I was choking back tears. I’ll admit that I don’t listen to Sheeran’s song “Photograph” much. It hits a little too close to home. But when Sheeran got to the last two lines of the song, he repeated them over and over again. Only Sheeran could get away with this, just by the way. Anyway, these two repeated lines took me back to a dark night a few months ago where I was scared for a friend of mine’s life. All of the feelings of not knowing whether they were OK, and not being able to be there to comfort them came rushing back and I found myself holding tears at bay:
Hearing you whisper through the phone
Wait for me to come home
It was the only time I have ever begged Sheeran to stop singing. Obviously he couldn’t hear me, I was begging silently, but I haven’t been so overcome while listening to music in years. Sheeran is much too powerful for his own good.
The most incredible thing about the concert, beside Sheeran doing it all himself, was that he changed his songs. Not just because all he had with him was a guitar and so changes legitimately had to be made, but Sheeran actually changed the words. not in that cheap way bands do where they chuck the name of the place in which they are playing into the song, but he added entire verses and bridges and choruses that were, from what I could tell, written specifically for this tour. And this wasn’t even just in his melodic songs. This was in songs like “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” and “Take It Back” where he raps. Furthermore, he sampled his own stuff into his more popular songs. “Nina” snuck into one of the better-known songs, for example. And he sampled other people’s stuff: Stevie Wonder and Iggy Azalea among them. I firmly believe that when an artist does that, it shows a humility that many acts lack. Sheeran may be the most down-to-earth famous person ever.
Sheeran made fun of the traditions of live gigs. You know when the band goes off stage, but they haven’t yet played one of their biggest songs? Yeah, Ed poked fun at that.
“Technically, this is my last song. But you all know how this works.”
Damn, son! Didn’t know you were allowed to do that.
But we all played along. And, let me tell you, “Ed” is pretty much the easiest name to chant ever.
And you know what else Sheeran did? He somehow managed to leave the stage without anyone noticing. During his actual last song, “Sing”, he had us all singing some harmonies. We were singing for a good forty-five seconds before the lights flicked on and we all realised that Sheeran had skipped out on us. He didn’t stick around to lap up the adoration. He left. And in front of a few thousand people too.
I’ve mentioned Sheeran is a musical god, haven’t I?
I have been to more than my fair share of live gigs. But I have never been to a gig like Ed Sheeran. The atmosphere was filled with joy and, most importantly, respect. Yes, we all got jostled and had our view stolen by inconsiderate tall people, but no one tried to hit anyone. No one started jumping over, or onto, anyone else. Everyone respected everyone else’s right to enjoy the show. This atmosphere has been sorely lacking from so many gigs, and to be able to watch Ed Sheeran among a group of people who all understood the beauty of live music was just incredible.
If you ever get a chance to see Ed Sheeran live, I strongly recommend that you do so. Even if you think his music isn’t your cup of tea, you need to see that one man can pull of a 90-120 minute set all alone, and then not stick around to get that final burst of audible adulation.
Ed Sheeran, you are a legend. And Australia loves you.