We'd assumed Ed Sheeran was just another pop idol, until...we headed to Wembley and heard him live.
By now everyone's heard of Ed Sheeran, that feisty 24 year old pop artist who happens to be a ginga and recently toured NZ. His songs are on high rotation in NZ radio stations and his popularity has already garnered maximum momentum.
Seems like there's a very healthy marketing machine propelling him at the top level of the music industry. He has the right backing and he's in the right corner. He's travelling the globe and riding a crest of success that is the envy of every want-to-make-it musician from here to eternity.
Our son just turned 13 and his special birthday present was family tickets to Wembley to see Ed. We were in London to visit family and see a few sights and given Ed is his favourite performer, we thought is was a great present for a kid on the day he became a teenager. As Brett said, "it's something he'll never forget."
The tickets were bought 9 months in advance to coincide with the London trip and the night finally arrived. We didn't know much about Ed, but prepared ourselves by familiarising ourselves with his music in the month leading up to the concert.We didn't want to be the only old fogeys (from Slater Chartered Accountants in Hamilton, NZ) in an arena of 100,000 people who were die hard fans!
It's a big stadium! Capacity is around 100,000 and it's the holy grail for big performers with big shows and big bands. Coming into Wembley for the first time is a bit like entering a tourism mecca. It's a stalwart. You come out from Wembley Park tube station and it sprawls before you. You walk along an impressive promenade lined with British Bobbies who monitor crowds. There's only a handful of artists who can sell it out and these include The Rolling Stones, Queen, Foo Fighters, U2, Coldplay and stars such as Robbie Williams and Elton John.
And then there's Ed...who sold out 3 nights in July 2015.
And five reasons why you should see him in concert:
- One man
- One guitar
- One loop box
- No accompaniment, no backup, no accompaniment. NOTHING!
- Incredible vocal range and musicianship.
One Man, No Band, One Hundred Thousand People
In 2010, the cooler contingent of The British musical press denounced Sheeran as leader of "The New Boring." They wrote him off as a syrupy pop love song writer and performer who was pandering to an ever growing mass of female teen fans. Pure high rotation fodder. 5 years later and it's a very different matter. Roll on to 2015 and the reviews of the Wembley concert have been more than favourable and there's been a celebration of his musicianship, vocal mastery and depth as an exceptionally talented performer.
His sets included Stevie Wonder covers and a brilliant rendition of Nina Simone's Feeling Good, as well as hits such as Don't, Nina, Photograph and One.
In The Loop
It's Sheeran's ability to meld substantial improvisation using his loop box while live that earns him additional favour with a more sophisticated music crowd. The development of crests and waves of musical layers gave the performance a good dose of body and depth which extends beyond easy listening. The clever reworking of Wonder's Superstition showcased this manipulation of his vocal and guitar skills perfectly.
The crowd at Wembley was a magnificent mix of the population and was hardly the stuff of teen fans screaming. Sure, there was a small contingent of feverish girls wherever you looked, but they were surrounded by millennial adults, oldies, ordinary kids, with men and women in equal numbers. It was a diverse crowd, genuinely amazed and enjoying the performance.
Sheeren and Sir Elton John
One of the surprise highlights of the show was the cameo appearance by Sir Elton Joh, who was ushered on the stage to perform two brief songs with Sheeran before being rapidly ushered off again. This was definitely Ed's night and Sir Elton had the foresight and sensitivity to respect this without stealing the limelight. They performed two songs together, the beautiful Afire Love which recounts the slow and painful demise of Sheeran's grandfather into Alzheimers Disease, and the more upbeat Don't Go Breaking My Heart,originally performed as a duet by John in the 80's with Kiki Dee. There's no doubt Sir Elton has given Sheeran the royal rock seal of approval. His presence at the Wembley show and their earlier performance together at the 2013 Grammy's is testimony to that.
Sheeran is also keen to set the record straight about the exact nature of their musical relationship. Contrary to popular belief, Sir Elton is not Sheeran's manager, as is often misquoted in the media. Rather, Sheeran's manager works in at the Management Company that is owned by Sir Elton and this means he takes an interest in Sheeran here and there as one of the young musicians in the management company stables.
It's said one of the greatest honours another musician can bestow on another is to perform your music. Since his arrival on the music scene in 2011, Sheeran has also managed to develop an impressive list of songwriting credits and collaborations in a relatively short space of time.
By all accounts Ed's early life was relatively stable and happy. He was born in Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire and moved to Sussex as a young child. He is one of two children to art curator John Sheeran and his jewelry designing wife Imogen Lock. Together, his parents ran an independent art consultancy with an interest in Renaissance painting and the development of exhibitions. It seems an interest in the arts is therefore in the blood. HIs older brother is also involved in music. He is a classical composer with an interest in film scores.
Sheeran's interest in music began early and by the age of 4 he was singing in a local Catholic church choir in Framlingham. He also learned guitar at an early age.
By the age of 14 in 2005, Ed put out his first EP, titled The Orange Room EP. By 2008, and aged seventeen he had made his mind up to pursue music full time as a profession and went to London and began playing at stand up mike venues around Camden Lock. These first gigs were small and intimate but with time he gained a fairly solid and supportive following. Then in 2010 he made his way to Los Angeles and performed at open mike gigs around the city there. It was there he performed at The Foxhole, a venue owned by Jamie Foxx, who heard him play and was astounded by his talent to such a degree that he invited him to stay at his home for the remainder of Sheeran's time in LA.
In a relatively short space of time he has built a solid following that criss crosses the globe and extends to the U.S, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and of course his homeland of Britain. It will be interesting to see how his musicianship develops over the next few years, and how fame, fortune and success impact and shape the course of his songwriting. If the past few years are anything to go by, Ed Sheeran is very much here to stay and will make the most of whatever comes his way.