Ed Sheeran: One-man band wows Merriweather fans with engaging concert

Ed Sheeran took a risk when he released his latest album – and he has Sir Elton John and Taylor Swift to thank for it.

Maryland fans Saturday night couldn’t have been happier with that decision during his sold-out concert at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia – one of the stops on his worldwide tour.

Sir Elton with Swift convinced Sheeran to put the hip-hop song disco-esque, “Sing” on his latest effort. He could risk alienating those fans who discovered him in those teen-idol magazines. He could lose that fan base who had fallen in love with his acoustic soul and soft musical touches displayed on the heart-wrenching “A Team,”  a song about a crack-addicted prostitute.

It was a risk worth taking.

Sheeran coming off his mainstream mega-hit “A Team” recorded his second album “Multiply” better known as “X” that displays  his musical versatility with emotional songs like “One” written on a guitar made out of a whiskey bottle in a hotel room while on tour in Perth in 2011. The album also features  a rapping “Don’t,”  about a girlfriend cheating on him with a close friend. He played them both to a rain-soaked Columbia crowd.

His latest album showed he is more than a one-hit wonder and someone who can attract more than just screaming teenage girls. How often are you going to get an acoustic guitar-rapping performance mixed with sentimental love ballads and rocking pop songs?

Sheeran has a tune for everyone in his  repertoire as evident on his chart-rising album.

The album was released June 20, in Australia and New Zealand and then June 23 through Asylum Records and Atlantic Records.

After a week, “Multiply” charted at No. 1 in 12 countries and reached the top five in 11 other countries. The song “Sing,” inspired by Sheeran’s taking a liking to JT’s Justified, soared through the charts and probably will earn him a Grammy if his latest album doesn’t.   It’s  his first single to be No. 1 in the United Kingdom.

Sheeran, a British version of  the American musician Howie Day (Collide) with all the loops and pedals effects, covered most of his latest album along with a few tunes from his first commercial offering such as the rocking “Give Me Love,”  that pleased a rain-soaked crowd. Umbrellas in hand, the crowd braved the downpour, the thunderstorms and the lightening that seemed like a 4th of July fireworks show, while dancing, and singing along with the 23-year-old Brit from Hebden Bridge. The rain couldn’t stop Sheeran from pouring out his soul from songs like, “You need me, I don’t need you.”

He may be one of the few single-act musicians who can captivate and hold 20,000 fans of all ages mesmerized with a vocal range that handles the lows to the falsettos in such rare fashion. He doesn’t just play music but he engages  his fans – holds conversations and gets them to sing if they know the words or as he says, if you don’t “just make them up.”

And then he lies to them sweetly – telling them they are all in tune. After two beers, everyone is in perfect harmony.

Ed Sheeran (Wikipedia)
Ed Sheeran (Wikipedia)

And when he wants them to  hear a heart-warming tune that demands silence – he just says – no singing – just “chill.”

And the fans do just that and then scream afterwards about how much they love him.

Sheeran also frequently joked with the fans at Merriweather – often stopping to take photographs of the crowd. The only groan you could hear is when he said the song,  “I See Fire,” from The Hobbit was his last tune for the night.

Yeah, right.

But those familiar with his songs, knew that he couldn’t get away with that. He hadn’t played “A Team” or “Sing” yet – and he came back and closed with those hits – ending about a two-hour performance that had the crowd leaving the concert singing as they walked out and are probably still singing as they woke up this morning. That’s something he made his fans promise to do when they got up in the morning.

Sheeran’s return to Maryland comes on the heels of his performance earlier this summer at Power Plant Live in Baltimore, when his record had just hit the charts and was starting to create a worldwide buzz.  That performance followed the special Grammy Night when he was one of many artists who saluted the Beatles. Sheeran played John Lennon’s “In My Life,” to honor the Fab Four. It would have been fun to have seen him play that tune live at one of his concerts.  But it’s something he rarely does – plays covers during his concerts that promote his own albums.

But why not just throw the audience a special treat similar to what he has done at ITunes Festivals or in the Live Lounge BBC Radio 1 such as playing Sam Smith’s Stay with Me, or Snow Patrols’ Chasing Cars, or even The Fault in our Stars from the movie of the same name.

Maybe 2,000 fans saw that special July gig at Power Plant Live, which was more of an intimate-outdoor setting than the Merriweather performance and maybe a little offsetting with a bit too many screaming young girls drowning out some of his more sensitive music with screams of “I love you Eddie!”

And, of course, that begged the question, could his one-man act work for a larger venue in the United States.

The answer is yes.

And there’s no turning back for him now.  OK, those young girls are still professing their love to the icon, but we will live with that for now.

He may find out as Howie Day has learned that, it just might be too difficult for him to bring a band on tour with fans screaming for him to just be himself with his loops and effects, and big-screen shots of his intricate guitar playing. In other words – leave the band at home for now.

Sheeran’s handlers advised him that every song released on X would have to be played by himself with no back-up band. And he did just that – quite soulful with an array of guitars – he tends to like the smaller-size Martin guitars for grip and the fingerboard.  (LX1E Ed Sheeran Signature Edition)  His performance was quite amazing when you consider some of his songs like Sing seem to cry out for a band.

Sheeran told reporters he’s not quite ready to tour with a band. It’s not that he needs “control” he says, but he has so much more to accomplish and explore by himself.

Glad to hear that, but it would be nice to see him at some point go back to a more intimate setting with just a few hundred fans. Those days, however are probably long gone.