w/ James Blunt
August 2, 2017
Photos and review by Jared Stossel.
“We have a day off on tour tomorrow,” Ed Sheeran remarks to the packed Oracle Arena in Oakland yesterday evening. “And I intend to completely lose my voice from singing tonight,” he says with a smirk amidst a roar of cheers from the audience. “So if these next songs seem a bit quieter, they’re not meant to be.”
Ed Sheeran is unlike any performer that’s out there, particularly in the world of pop music. I would categorize him more as a singer-songwriter than give him the cliche term “pop star”. There is no band. There are no backing tracks. It’s just him, an acoustic guitar, two microphones, and a loop pedal. And yet he manages to make songs like “Castle on a Hill”, “Galway Girl”, and “Eraser” (all tracks from Sheeran’s latest studio album, Divide), come alive with nothing but these tools in hand. The lights in the arena are out promptly at 8:30, and there’s no grand theatrical entrance. Just a smile and walk onstage as he fires up the loop pedal to play the opening number.
Sheeran stands among a rather impressive LED stage structure that fills with graphics and images over the course of the show. It’s never a boring sight, and even in the moments where nothing fills the screen, Sheeran’s banter is entertaining. He’s the only artist I’ve ever seen that can play an arena packed to the masses with people, receive a near standing ovation after each song, and then talk as if you’re right there next to him in a campfire circle. My seat was in the back of the arena, but I didn’t feel any sense of disconnection in the entire hour and forty-five minutes that he was on stage. While a majority of tracks came from Divide, Sheeran threw in a few numbers from his massively popular X, including “Sing”, “Thinking Out Loud”, and “Don’t”.
The show was opened with a spectacular opening set from England’s own James Blunt, another singer-songwriter with an impressive discography under his belt. He joked with the audience that he was “using them” to test out brand new material. He powered through each track with bravado and impressive stage presence. As the new material came to an end, he smiled and stated, “Okay, NOW we’ll play the song that you know.” He goes right into “You’re Beautiful”, a track that gained a significant amount of momentum in the United States when it debuted several years ago.
The opening set combined with Sheeran’s headlining act proved for a well-structured show. Too often I will attend a show that I believe to have only one opener only to show up later and discover there were two acts scheduled to play before that weren’t even listed on the bill, and it was nice to see everything go according to schedule.
After a good deal of banter with the crowd, some incredibly fantastic numbers, and a multitude chord progressions, Sheeran closed with Divide’s biggest hit, “Shape Of You”, followed closely by the electrifying “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” from his debut album +, providing the perfect conclusion to a radiant performance.
Ed Sheeran Set List
Castle on the Hill
The A Team
Don't / New Man
Feeling Good / I See Fire
Hearts Don't Break Around Here
Thinking Out Loud
Shape of You
You Need Me, I Don't Need You