Listening to good live music is a spiritually cleansing experience (even to someone skeptical towards the idea of a spirit), it has a profound effect that will live with you forever and listening to that music is never the same again, years later a sense of nostalgia will always bring a smile to your face in memory of your night packed like sardines into a hot, smelly venue with nothing to drink for hours, it really is glorious.
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I first discovered Ed Sheeran early in 2010 and there’s no doubt that he immediately struck me as an amazing artist, devastated that I never got to see him perform before his “rise to fame,” I jumped at the opportunity to see him perform on his UK tour and snapped up tickets as quickly as possible. When you find an artist before the masses, for some reason or another you feel you have a personal bond with that person, despite never meeting them or being likely to ever meet them, they are yours. There is a sense of ownership and an understanding of that artist that none of the “bandwagon” fans will ever get, embarrassingly I sort of felt this way with Ed Sheeran. I knew he was destined for fame and his A64 for youth media giant SB.TV, “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” assured me that he would soon be a household name, however little did I know that we were not just talking houses in the UK, global fame was ahead.
Kicking off his UK tour with five nights in a row at The Hammersmith Apollo, you cannot knock Ed Sheeran’s work rate. One might assume that the calm and collected young man regularly seen in a humble hoody and jeans, sleeves often pulled over his hands, would lack confidence, one would be wrong. Ed bounded onto stage to an eruption from the fairly small but sold out Hammersmith Apollo crowd and announced that tonight we would be his gospel choir, it is compulsory to sing and “if you don’t know the words, make them up.” Opening with “Give Me Love,” the diverse audience granted his wish and did not stop singing all night, often near the end of a live song people get bored and want to hear what is next, but this was not the case here.
The most touching moments were when Ed managed to get near silence in the venue to sing some of his more heartfelt of songs, ‘Small Bump,’ ‘Kiss Me,’ and others touched everyone in the room. While at first the silence was broken by shouts from the bar of “GO ON SON!” and “YOU CAN DO IT GINGER!” (to which Ed chuckled), everyone soon stopped to listen and sing quietly along. One of my favourite moments of the night was when Mr Sheeran slowly moved the microphone away from his mouth and sung to the quiet audience with nothing but his own voice. Astonished, everyone picked their jaws up off the floor and were bouncing around minutes later to something more upbeat.
With the use of his trusty loop station, Ed Sheeran is a one man band; his guitar is not just a guitar but a bass drum and snare, a little beat boxing further develops the beat and his voice becomes his own backing vocal. With ease he recreates his music in front of you before he begins to sing his passion filled lyrics, as a big hip-hop fan I fully appreciated Ed’s ability to spit a few bars with a flow that could rival that of his idol Eminem. His energy was infinite and the crowd did there very best to keep up, ‘Grade 8′ being particularly energetic. Ed’s interaction with the crowd continued throughout and had us going from gospel choir to acting school as we linked arms and swayed side to side re-enacting a drunk experience of his at Latitude Festival one year.
An early departure devastated the audience, but of course, this was not the end. Chants of “WE WANT ED,” had him back out on stage within minutes to perform more including his debut hit single ‘A-Team’ and breakthrough track, ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You.’ The latter of which lasted a phenomenal fifteen to twenty minutes, his intensity hit its pinnacle in the song that denounces those who told him he must change his sound and image (including dying his hair) to achieve success. As the night came to a close, there was not a disappointed face in sight; everyone got exactly what they came for and then some. I would have liked to hear some of his lesser-known songs, something from ‘No 5 Collaborations Project’ perhaps, but I guess the grime features are not for everyone and I certainly will not be holding this against him.
Before I finish I must mention his supporting act Passenger, who with more time could possibly have stolen the show right from under Ed Sheeran’s nose. Once a busker and pub singer, the man and his guitar are now travelling with Ed on his tour and is a natural with the crowd. It can often be difficult for a supporting act when everyone just wants to see the artist they paid for, you hear a small groan as they come out and mumbles of “who’s this?” Passenger took it all in his stride and within minutes had everyone singing along to ‘I Hate,’ which not only showcased his voice but gave us all a laugh. I do not think many other artists could have done a better job of setting the tone for the night and the big cheer he received when he came out to sing with Ed midway through the show proved his popularity. I was perfectly happy to buy a copy of his CD, ‘All The Little Lights,’ which he was selling after the show and my only regret was not getting it signed as he stood taking pictures. I wish you all the best in the future sir, you deserve it!