Every rainy day, throwback, or study playlist someone has ever made has James Blunt’s, “You’re Beautiful” on it. Those who attended the concert at the KFC Yum! Center last Thursday were lucky enough to hear this, as well as the rest of his classics, live before Ed Sheeran came on. During the last song, Blunt reminded the audience just what they were in for that night: a set transition between a six person band, and one man, his guitar, and a loop station.
He needed no grand entrance, no prolonged suspense before coming on, just a simple walk out onto stage, humble as can be, wearing a flannel and jeans. Ed Sheeran’s 2017 album, Divide, pays homage to his heritage, his upbringing, and genuine feeling about some of life’s most prominent events. The songs are similar to others on his previous albums, but still hold a uniqueness to them that sets them apart. Even without knowing all of the words to these new songs, his vivacious energy and passion about these songs was evident and consistent throughout the entire show, even while singing his most emotional songs.
If one were to close their eyes throughout the entirety of the show, they would be picturing a huge band and multiple back-up vocalists behind Sheeran for every song. This, however, was not the case. The entire show consisted of Sheeran’s vocals, guitar, and his loop station. These three instruments were all it took to create a huge, complex sound from just one ginger-haired man. His guitar was not only used for strumming, but mimicking sounds of a drum that carried the beat. If his vocals weren’t enough, he proved his talent even more by taking on the roll of about seven different sounds in each song. Each song was accompanied with a scenic, multi-dimensional backdrop that helped everyone interpret each song more fully. The stage wasn’t over-the-top and distracting, but rather harmonious with each song. Track 10 off the new album, “What Do I Know?”, mirrors everything he displayed on that stage Thursday night. He sings, “But God gave me a stage, a guitar, and a song…I’ll paint the picture, let me set the scene…We could change this whole world with a piano, add a bass, some guitar, grab a beat and away we go.”
Not only were the vocals and instrumentals incredible, but the stage presence was one that made everyone feel not only involved, but necessary to the success of the show. Sheeran repeatedly proclaimed his main request from the crowd: to dance, sing, and genuinely invest themselves into every moment of the show, no matter who was standing next to you. He advocated for “throwing weird shapes,” his terminology for dancing in whatever way you felt right. He orchestrated the crowd to illuminate their phone lights and sing along to his first single, “The A Team,” which permeated nostalgia throughout the entire arena. His encore, “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” was easily, and most fittingly, the most intense song on the setlist. It was elongated to allow Sheeran to incorporate his own personal flare into it.
When the show ended, people were left standing there staring at a crew beginning to pack up the stage, wishing it wouldn’t end. This being my second time seeing Sheeran live, it is incredible, and extremely well deserved, to see his transformation as an artist and a performer. While I’m loving learning all of Divide, I’m already anxiously anticipating to see what he comes out with next.