Though it wasn’t a “Wembley Stadium crowd with 240 thou,” as referenced in his song “Eraser,” the audience at Nationwide Arena Tuesday night sounded as if it matched — or topped — a group of that size during Ed Sheeran’s Columbus stop on his “Divide” tour.
Sheeran’s evident joy in performing came through in every song, bringing the crowd’s intensity up with every move he made.
Whether it was moving his hands up and down to the beat, pulling out his cell phone or jumping from stage left to stage right, the crowd echoed each action Sheeran did and harmonized along to each word he sang.
The concert didn’t seem like a show put on by one man, but rather an event that relied on the inclusion of an arena-sized group. From the pit to the very top of the arena, Sheeran urged each member of the audience to sing as loud as they could and dance to whichever move they pleased.
The singer from Halifax, United Kingdom, proved he “lost that state of mind” during his first song, “Castle on the Hill.” He sang about the roads in which he travels home and the friends he had growing up while maintaining a stage presence that, well, only he has proven possible.
It’s challenging for a single performer to hold a crowd’s interest for a two-hour show, but that’s what Sheeran is known for and does best. With a few touches to the Lu Peddle each song, and switches from one guitar to the next –– depending on the sound he was going for –– every move Sheeran made on stage was done with a purpose: to keep the crowd going and to keep the energy soaring nowhere but up.
He succeeded in doing both.
The singer showed that he’s a dominant performer with his second song “Eraser,” an anthem-esque call-out to all of those who doubt his intentions and values as a pop star.
In “Eraser” Sheeran raps that he won’t “be caught up in the trappings of the industry,”
“Show me the locked doors / I’ll find another use for the key / And you’ll see.”
Though he looked and sounded like a pop star, the message of the song seemed sincere as his smile and focus never faded throughout his 17-song set on his 101st tour stop.
The crowd remained focused on mirroring Sheeran’s passion, which seemed to peak during his song “Bloodstream.” He took a song about feelings running throughout his body and spread the sensation to each member of the crowd.
As the beat got faster and bass grew louder, the crowd did, as well. The beat dropped as he sang “I feel the chemicals burn in my bloodstream,” and it was as if each person in the audience felt an essence in their body that brought the energy to its height.
He shifted from “Bloodstream,” a song from his second album “Multiply” to “Happier,” a ballad about heartbreak, which seemed odd at first — going from high-energy to a sad song — but the energy stayed and turned into emotion.
Sheeran performed songs from each album, but focused on his latest, “Divide,” performing 10 songs from that album, five from “Multiply” and two from his debut album “Plus.”
In an era where people seem to always be occupied by their phones, many audience members ditched their devices to wave both arms in the air and grab their neighbor for a dance during Sheeran’s Irish jig “Nancy Mulligan.”
Sheeran ended his performance with “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” which seemed to be a true statement for every person in the crowd. Because without Sheeran’s performance, how would they know what it was like to witness the greatest solo artist of this generation?
Sheeran experienced two firsts during the opening leg of his two-show Columbus stop: he brought out a crew member, P.J. Smith, to accompany him on-stage during the song “How Would You Feel,” and welcomed back his opening act, James Blunt, to perform a song the two wrote had written together for the first time.
It was fortunate for Blunt that Sheeran made the gesture, as the opener fell flat during his set.
And, yes, by ‘James Blunt’ I do mean the musician who released the hit song “You’re Beautiful” from 2005.
Throughout his set, Blunt was in good spirit though many in the crowd hardly knew his songs. That’s not me being critical, Blunt said it best himself: “You only know one of my songs and I’m not even playing it,” he joked in the beginning of his set.
To the crowd’s pleasure, he did end up playing “You’re Beautiful,” though things got a bit awkward in the arena when he motioned for the crowd to sing the chorus and its volume dwindled after singing three words.
On the bright side Blunt seems to be Sheeran’s biggest fan (though he wasn’t sporting the black “Divide” shirt many in the crowd were wearing) and didn’t seem to mind the lack of enthusiasm among the crowd.
“I’ve gotten to share this little stage with [one of] the biggest male artists in the world,” Blunt said. And Sheeran proved the title given to be true.