Hearts all around Singapore fluttered in excitement as the date for Ed Sheeran’s return to Singapore drew closer. We couldn’t personally catch him the last time he came and so, we agreed to write about our experience as we definitely knew it would be one that we wanted to document. As fans filed into the National Stadium, the anticipation buzzing in the air was almost tangible. In the mosh-pit, the most passionate fans arrived as early as 3pm to get a spot as close to the stage as possible. As the lights dimmed after the opening act, roaring cheers and resounding applause echoed from all corners of the stadium as fans watched a live feed of the star of the night approaching the stage.
Ed Sheeran bounded onstage in a simple turquoise t-shirt, jeans and sneakers get-up for the second round of his ÷ Tour, greeting his adoring fans with an easy “Hello Singapore!” before launching into a crowd favourite Castle on the Hill. The energetic rendition lifted the already simmering ambience to an electrifying high, coming right after the zestful opening act by the Japanese four-member band One Ok Rock with some of their famous tracks such as Stand Out Fit In, Clock Strikes and The Beginning.
The beloved ginger-haired English popstar crooned to a sold-out crowd of 51,000 at the National Stadium, his biggest show in Singapore yet. Indeed, he was at one point Thinking Out Loud, wittily stating: “It’s one thing to play in stadiums where you’re from, but it feels surreal playing in a completely different country and seeing the same number of people coming out to sing along to your songs.” Armed with only a guitar and the microphone, his voice and those of his fans echoed throughout the closed dome of the National Stadium, cascading like a waterfall of colourful vocals into one colossal karaoke session.
The musical genius put up a literal one-man show, creating and constructing the different musical layers to his entire setlist in real time using just a loop pedal, also known as a loop station. By striking the shell of his guitar, the rhythm of a song was created; adding that to the other musical elements produced by Ed as he strummed, hummed and harmonised on his own — voilá! It was wholly magical, flawlessly executed, and further complemented by Ed’s powerful vocals which undoubtedly coursed through everyone’s Bloodstream like a powerful drug. Ed’s guitar and vocal skills when paired with the loop pedal had the spotlight shining solely on him. Without the distractions of elaborate costume and set changes, the most genuine connection between him and the audience was created, and that moment was undeniably priceless.
It goes without saying that this makes it one of the most down-to-earth concerts ever performed, where Ed took the time to interact with the crowd: sharing little anecdotes such as his performances in bars before his career soared; even jokingly giving a pep-talk to the “boyfriends and superdads” who were involuntarily dragged to attend his concert. The English charmer bade the audience to adhere to two rules that he asserted to make a successful and satisfactory concert experience: to Sing along until one lost their voice, and to be dripping in perspiration by the time the evening comes to an end.
And it was with certainty that fans did not disappoint, for they were singing, bopping and dancing along while screaming their adoration for the songster as he went through an intricate setlist of more than 20 songs, from old hits such as The A Team, Photograph and Lego House, to the highlights of his tour album — Eraser, Galway Girl and Nancy Mulligan. Ed made the evening Perfect with a well-balanced mix of love ballads and upbeat tunes and he even had the entire stadium Dive into a groovy singalong activity of harmonising chords as he collaborated with the audience on a special rendition of Nina. The slower numbers were dripping with emotion, transforming the stadium into a glittering sea of lights as the fans turned on the flashlights on their smartphones and swayed along to the touching tunes. Tenerife Sea, in particular, was one of Ed’s older and slower songs that shone most brightly through the acoustics of the stadium. While he would normally ask his fans to make as much noise as they would like, he requested that they appreciated Tenerife Sea as silently as possible. The silence was ideal as the only sounds that could be heard were from the strings of his guitar and his voice, creating a beautiful blend of music. At one point, Ed even treated the audience to a cover of Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself, which he wrote himself, causing the crowd to go wild at the unexpected cover. One of the things we personally love about watching concerts live was hearing the fellow fans beside us sing their hearts out along with us, united in our love for our favourite artist’s music.
Although Ed’s music was definitely the highlight of the night, we noticed the intricate graphic design that went into the backdrops that accompanied each song. On a set built to accentuate how simple it can be to appreciate purely the beauty of music, the graphics of each animated backdrop suited the mood of each song. For instance, the backdrop that was displayed when Perfect was performed matched the song’s original music video with the effects of falling snow. A single rose in a glass case was initially portrayed in black and white, slowly coming to life in pink hues as the song progressed. It perfectly matched the song’s lyrics about a love that is blossoming slowly and that which is everlasting. The continuously morphing graphics danced around on the multiple LED screens behind Ed and enhanced the effects of each song. As he sang “I See Fire…”, each time the word ‘fire’ was sung, a fiery image erupted on the screen. Even though we came to the concert to listen to our favourite tunes from Ed, we were nonetheless pleasantly surprised by the magnificent visual effects that became the cherry on top of an already amazing concert.
The crowd gave the most deafening roar when Ed disappeared offstage, which only escalated when he reappeared clad in an iconic red and white t-shirt with the Singapore flag emblazoned on his left chest. Although he is an international best-selling artist, Ed appreciated every country on his tour, showing his appreciation for the Singaporean fans by donning our country’s colours. Amidst shouts of “Encore! Encore!”, the one-man wonder picked up the guitar once again and played the opening notes of the best-selling song of 2017, Shape of You. Soon after, he ended his Singapore ÷ Tour with a final performance of You Need Me, I Don’t Need You. Indeed Ed, you couldn’t have said (sung) it any better.
We would have been Happier if Ed stayed longer, but alas, it was not meant to be, for all good things must come to an end. It felt as if the two hours flew by like minutes as each song brought us back to certain moments where his music had accompanied us throughout the ups and downs in our lives. Nonetheless, it was definitely one of the most memorable evenings for all of the concertgoers, as they left –albeit reluctantly– feeling as though their hearts have been filled with the sweetest (Supermarket) Flowers. We sincerely hope you will be back soon, Ed, have a good rest and return as a New Man next time you’re back in Singapore!
Written by Jodie Lim and Lee Wan Lin