Fri. Jan 28th, 2022

On Monday, Sept. 8, Ed Sheeran brought his worldwide Multiply tour to Philadelphia.  For nearly two hours, he commanded the attention of a crowd of thousands at Wells Fargo Center. Though the crowd wasn’t sold out, it was certainly enthusiastic.

The show began on a slightly weak note with opening act Rudimental.  Apparently a well-known British funk band, they failed to capture the crowd.  The band had around five lead singers, each of who had a song.  Alternating between lead singers made it difficult to identify with any of them.  When the band asked the crowd to sing along, they unfortunately failed to get a huge response.  The two female lead singers, however, had impressive vocals, which carried the act.

In the forty-five minute gap between the opening act and Ed Sheeran’s performance, the crowd in the general admission floor area grew restless.  However, the moment the lights dimmed, the crowd screamed their hearts out.

Ed Sheeran, as an artist, seems to be a bundle of contradictions.  He’s a red-headed British singer/songwriter/rapper. His songs alternate between revealing songs about the plights of prostitutes (“The A Team”), songs about intense drug and/or alcohol use (“Bloodsteam”), and love songs fit for a wedding (“Tenerife Sea” and “Thinking Out Loud”).  When he stood in front of the Philly crowd, however, he was completely genuine and wore every role perfectly.

He opened the show with “I’m a Mess.”  His tell-all song about hitting rock bottom was an incredible thing to hear in a stadium setting.  Sheeran then explained to the crowd that it was his job to entertain them and their job to be entertained.  

What remains intensely unique about Sheeeran’s performances is his use of a foot loop-pedal. Instead of having a back-up band, Sheeran used the looping pedal in order to record his own vocals and other instruments.  After he would record these (all in front of the crowd), he would move to the other microphone and sing the main part of the song, all while working the foot pedal.  His use of the technology was impressive, as it allowed him to be his whole band.  It made for a completely fascinating performance.

The concert was a combination of both his old and new songs.  His first album, Plus, was a huge hit, and he sang nearly all of the singles from it.  Songs from his new album, Don’t, got a huge response.  In the song, he raps most of the verses about his girlfriend (believed to be Ellie Golding) cheating on him with a friend (a member of One Direction, according to the gossip sites).  In this live performance, he did not censor himself, as he did on the album.  Towards the bridge, he even incorporated a few lines from the song “No Diggity” which garnered a huge response from the crowd.

When Sheeran sang, “Take It Back”, a deluxe-edition song off his album, it began, “I’m not a rapper / I’m a singer with the flow.”  However, this song involved him stepping away from the guitar and the pedal, instead taking the microphone in hand and moving around the stage as he rapped.

As Sheeran made his way through the set, the loop pedal became particularly impressive on “Bloodsteam.” This song featured a huge section with his own back-up vocals building up.  On the TV screens behind him, they even zoomed in on the pedal.

When Sheeran sang, in one of his most personal songs, “Runaway” (about running away from home, even though he loves his dad), he even threw in a few lines from the Backstreet Boys song, “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”.  This was a huge throwback to a performance he did last year while on tour as the opening act for Taylor Swift.  In this performance, he too sang a Backstreet Boy’s song, even though he joked that he had been advised not to do so.

The concert slowed down when Sheeran sang his love songs, “Tenerife Sea” and “Thinking Out Loud.”  Both songs reference his current age and are believed to be about his current girlfriend.  Intensely emotional, you could see girls on the floor of the concert singing along to every word.  When looking around the concert, you could see lights from everyone’s cell phones as they lit them and waved them back and forth.

The saddest point of the concert occurred when Ed Sheeran introduced his song “Afire Love.”  He informed everyone that he would rather they not sing along and instead just listen to the lyrics.  Of course, at this, many members of the crowd screamed and broke the silence.  The other half of the crowd “ssssh”ed them.  Sheeran took it well and said that if the crowd kept giving the loud people attention, they’d keep being loud.

There are very few artists who have the stage presence to silence an entire stadium, but he is one of them.  After a few moments, the crowd was largely silent and in tears, as Ed Sheeran played his song about his grandfather suffering from Alzheimer’s.  The chorus explained the romantic relationship his grandparents used to have, and then the second verse recounted his grandfather’s funeral.  Sheeran himself seemed emotional as he sang, but when the song finished, he was quick to move into another song.

The oddest part of the concert occurred when Ed Sheeran announced it would be his last song (of course, excluding the encore), and he began to play “I See Fire.”  That song is the credit’s song from the latest Hobbit movie.  In the background, they even had clips of Smaug, the dragon, flying.  For those of the crowd who loved The Hobbit (myself included), the song was a huge hit.  However, it must have been an odd closing note for those who did not know the movie.

When Sheeran left the stage, almost no one in the audience moved a muscle, screaming for an encore.  He came out almost immediately and sang two of the biggest hits from his first album: “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” (an impressively long rap) and “The A Team.”  The concert finished with him singing “Sing,” his first single off his latest album. He broke the crowd in half and had each group sing different harmonies on the backing vocals.  As the successful concert came to a close, Ed Sheeran told the crowd to keep on singing as they left, as they drove home, and into the next day.   After a concert that successful, I am certain they will.

Theresa Kelly is a third-year student majoring in English literature secondary education.  She can be reached at TK780615@wcupa.edu.

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