It’s no secret that Ed Sheeran has caused a few problems with the release of his latest album ‘÷ (Divide)’. Mistakes were made, specifically with Galway Girl, a rather audacious attempt at injecting a bit of diddly-eye into his repertoire, but the public consensus remains: he seems like such a nice bloke.
Almost 13,000 people flocked to Dublin’s 3Arena last night for the first of two sold out shows. Sheeran, Irish at heart (we suppose), is visibly energised by the crowd’s feedback, who go just as stone mad for new album tracks as they do for hits like I’m A Mess, BloodStream, and The A Team.
Every lyric is screamed towards the stage almost competitively, weeding out the fake fans from the real. During a short interlude between songs, Sheeran bangs on his ¾ size Martin in 4/4 time, and a nearby girl yells ‘I love this song!’, you can’t fault the fans.
It would be easy to suggest, at this stage of the musician’s career, that perhaps it’s time to add a band to the set up, but Sheeran once again proves that one man, a guitar, and a loop pedal, can thunder through some of the biggest venues in the world all on his own.
The vocal looping on I’m A Mess is deeply impressive, as well as Sheeran’s ability to make an acoustic guitar sound like a full band – and then some. The effort wavered only once or twice, the guitar motif on I See Fire, for instance, sounded smaller than it should have.
Perhaps it was an attempt on Sheeran’s part to bring the energy of the show down a little, to replicate something more intimate, but that won’t work here. He goes electric for Thinking Out Loud, and thankfully there’s not a proposal in sight.
Things take a turn for the Oirish when some trad musicians are added to the stage for extra authenticity. They’re brilliant, to be fair, and the crowd throws every morsel of cultural identity into messy jigs and arms-around-the shoulders drink sloshing.
Galway Girl opens with a few bars of the original – you know the other one that wasn’t written by an Irish lad either – before going full session-on-the-quays. One imagines that this was precisely the reaction Sheeran hoped for while penning the tune, and almost breathes a sigh of relief when the 13.000 Irish folk react positively. Phew.
The gig closes with a two song encore. Shape of You changes the tone completely, and suddenly we find ourselves in a tropical disco (or a nightclub on Harcourt Street), as the addition of a backing track drowns out the guitar work.
Never fear, for the pinnacle of his technical ability has waited out for closer You Need Me I Don’t Need You. With excellent guitar work, and extremely impressive vocal control, Sheeran proves that there’s just about room for one British white guy rapping with an acoustic guitar, and he’s it. Exhausted though he may be, he is running on the energy of the crowd, which could have kept him on stage for days.
The image of Sheeran as a hard-working everyman – a sound bloke, one of the lads – can grow tired, but in this case it’s not contrived. There’s no marketing ploy here, and despite a disappointing third album, Ed Sheeran lets his musicianship speak for itself. ‘You know, I fucking knew’, he tells us, ‘that Dublin would be the best show on the tour’. I bet you say that to all the cities Ed, you charmer.