Concert review: Ed Sheeran exceeds all expectations

Ed Sheeran puts on a stadium show with the independent atmosphere of a dive-bar performance

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Photo E. Stark

Ed Sheeran sings to the crowd

Amelia Foster, A&E Editor

Looking at the miles and miles of traffic-jammed cars leading to Raymond James Stadium, I was seriously considering whether this Ed Sheeran concert would be worth the wait. It was a hot and humid Wednesday night, I had a lot of homework and I hadn’t listened to his music since the seventh grade. Despite being known for soft love songs rather than instant radio hits, Sheeran had managed to sell out over 60,000 seats for his Divide tour and put on a show unlike any I had ever seen.

As he walked on stage, I had never seen such a big artist look so tiny. And that wasn’t just because of my seat, Sheeran walked out to the large stage with just a guitar, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and remained exactly that way for the rest of the night- with an exception of putting on a Buccaneers jersey for the encore. He looked small compared to the vastness of the stadium and the crowds of screaming fans, yet he carried himself with such confidence that anyone would have thought he had an army of people up there with him.

Before Sheeran played any songs, he explained that everything he was going to do was completely live. No background singers, no backup dancers; just him on a stage with a microphone, a loop system to let him replay any sound, and a guitar. Despite lacking the flair of other just-as-famous artists, Sheeran filled the entire stadium with his golden voice and his vibrant and bubbly personality.

Sheeran didn’t take himself too seriously throughout the concert. The crowd was a little stiff in the beginning, but with his repeated jokes about his lack of dance skills and how he had never played a show with a pirate ship before, the ice quickly began to melt. At about 30 minutes in, Sheeran spent 10 minutes making fun of all the guys who pretended they were too good for love songs; he seemed aware of the stigma surrounding his music yet completely embraced it.

Halfway through his set list, he diverged from the planned course. Deciding that he would have a “little sing along” with the crowd, he created a Frankenstein of five songs, all from different albums, yet they sounded flawless together.

In a more somber moment, he played “Supermarket Flowers” from Divide, his most recent album. Sheeran explained that he hadn’t planned on doing this as it was kind of a mood-killer, yet three separate parties had approached him before the show and explained the importance of the song to him.  To reignite the previous flames of the crowd, Sheeran played “Galway Girl” and “Love Yourself” in quick succession, the latter of which he wrote for Justin Bieber but decided he wanted to sing that night.

Sheeran ended his stadium show not with a successful, radio-friendly single like most artists, but with a song titled “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You.” He turned a less-than-four-minute song from his first album into a nearly ten-minute song while jumping around stage, filled with energy. The lyrics, as the title implies, are about his independence from the controlling music industry, and that defiance translates into his unique performance.

Despite the transformation from small dive bars to immense stadiums over the course of Sheeran’s career, he managed not to lose what made people like him in the first place. At Sheeran’s shows, he is first and foremost a person, not a celebrity, and he does what he wants while making sure the crowd knows it. The only real things that have changed about his shows over the years are the songs, the performance could have been the same no matter the stage. Sheeran has the talent to sing to a crowd of devoted fans, and still make it feel like he is only singing to you.