Simply Ed

The first thing I noticed, apart from the vertiginous stairs leading to my small pew on Level C, was the incongruity of our little group, consisting of five women ranging in age from 68 to 13. I was attending the Ed Sheeran concert along with my daughter, my granddaughter, her half-sister and her best friend. This is probably not the usual demographic you might find at a popular concert: along with our age difference, we probably have little in common when it comes to taste in music or culture generally. So what is it about Ed?

Travelling by train directly to the venue, I noticed other small groups like ours as mothers, daughters and girlfriends piled into the train, chatting eagerly en route to the show. Of the 65,000 attending last Monday night, I would hazard a guess and suggest that women and girls made up more than 70 percent of the audience. Younger girls attended with an older male, father, brother, boyfriend or chaperone. Families of women and girls outnumbered the token male in their group. Ed understands his demographic well and encourages the boyfriends and dads to join in the singing, ‘This is your karaoke moment, dance, sing and forget about the people around you. If you don’t know the words, make them up’, Ed teases. There are many chorus chants in most of Ed’s songs allowing for mass participation without stuffing up the lyrics. Some of these chants come with particular waving actions, not unlike a soccer crowd experience only gentler, tamer.

From my vertical seat in the Etihad Stadium, Melbourne, Ed looked like an unreal creature, or as one of my daughter’s friends commented, ‘like a Ranger Ant’. It doesn’t take long to lose this sense of distance, thanks to the sound and video close-ups shown on screens at the rear. For those who aren’t familiar with Ed’s approach, he plays an electrified acoustic guitar solo, a one-man band, with no pre- recorded choruses, drum machines or tracks. Sheeran is known for using loop pedals in his live performances, allowing him to record his own guitar riffs, verses and chants before ‘looping’ it as he continues to play. After a song or two, it’s intriguing to hear the various elements being laid down, then listening to their reintroduction as the song builds, layer upon layer.

‘He’s up there on his own and he’s riding a wave of being in the moment with the music and every time he puts his foot down he’s either recording or looping or reversing or adjusting a track….It’s like watching a painter live paint a picture while doing something else at the same time – to a global TV audience. The pressure is insane!’

For those who were brought up enjoying singing in rounds, the effect is similar, only more electrifying and complex.

Phone light show. The A Team, a song about homelessness. Photos courtesy of Rachael Morgan.

Ed encourages the audience to turn on their phone lights during the gentle chorus of ‘The A Team‘, 

It’s too cold outside, For angels to fly,  Angels to fly.

It’s a kitsch but magical moment, reminding me of the good old days when we would wave our cigarette lighters about in the dark during the more radical and anti- imperialist Midnight Oil concerts. 

Sheeran’s music is eclectic, popular and non aggressive. While some of the sounds and lyrics might be considered simplistic and banal, as in the popular Shape of You, other genres show more depth and song writing genius. His music skips around most styles, Pop, Rap, Blues, Acoustic, English Folk, Beat Boxing, often incorporating elements of story telling or ballad. My favourites include the gospel R&B Make it Rain, sadly not performed at the Melbourne concert, and the multi layered Bloodstream, the live version added below which demonstrates Sheeran’s loop box recording for those not familiar with this technique.

Ed Sheeran’s concert tour of Australia and New Zealand sold over 1 million tickets. Now that’s around one in 30 people who attended the show, and if we cut out the very young and the very old, the odds get much narrower. His music might be described as broadchurch, but then it’s hard not to admire this gentle and enormously talented force, especially if you’re a woman or a girl.

31 thoughts on “Simply Ed”

  1. Well, simply Francesca, you even know how to lecture about a pop- icon! And I love the humour you both possess! Thank you for the music . . . methinks, grandmother, I should try a little more of the guy: I am still mostly in the opera and symphony time-slot . . . . Liked him on ‘The Report’ . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ed Sheeran’s music came to me via my daughter. I am open to a variety of musical influences but mostly enjoy world music . I am a fan of Indian music and enjoy a bit of Breton. For grandmothers, start with that gospel number, Make it Rain.

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  2. I really enjoyed this post. It brought back memories from a couple of years ago when my daughter was given tickets to see Taylor Swift in Adelaide. She invited me to go with her and I couldn’t resist. Hopped on a plane and away we went. The demographic sounded very similar to your description of Ed’s demo, though a few more very young girls, perhaps, but a very wide ranging group and plenty of the women my age and older! They provided glow sticks and it was very very fun, and yes, I think I may have been very much less demure than our daughter, but it really was a top experience for both of us. So glad you enjoyed Ed. I have him in my playlist and very much enjoy his music.

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    1. What a great experience Ardys. Great to share these moments with women friends and family. Glad to hear you are also a fan. I think it’s a good idea to keep an open mind about music and have an eclectic approach.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I have grown to really enjoy George Michael over the years. What did you wear Signorina? funny, we had that same conversation on the way home as my granddaughter drove around the suburbs dropping us all off. It was the 13 year old’s first concert, ( the half sister of my granddaughter) and so will always be special for her.

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    1. Ed has been coming here for years, and it’s always a sell out. The thousands walked calmly and slowly out of the stadium to the sound of Sheeran songs played by buskers along the laneways to the station and main road. Many sang along as the crush moved slowly to 12 railway platform escalators. Melbourne transport put on heaps more trains and trams. Melbourne is a city of over 5 million, known as the events capital of Australia, so these big shows are frequent enough but I think Ed took the cake with 250,000 Melbournians over 4 nights.
      Not brave Ron, happy.

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  3. How intensely fabulous. When you are part of such an audience where the good will and enjoyment are palpable it makes you so happy and singing on the way home is testimony to that – it must be so good for something really visceral within you.

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  4. I love Ed. He and his lyrics seem so genuine and humble. Sadly he isn’t coming to Vancouver this tour, just Seattle in August. I will have to catch him next time. Meanwhile, I have ‘the shape of you’ playing on repeat in my head 🎧. Ciao, Cristina

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, so jealous, Francesca. Ed is a favorite and I so appreciate you taking us along. He is, as you say, immensely talented and, from what I’ve read, a nice guy as well. Great to see good things happen to nice guys. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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