By Brad Haynes
Before Ed Sheeran took the stage tonight for his Amway Center show, the excited crowd was treated to a 40 minute set by Sheeran’s good friend James Blunt. While Blunt did a fantastic job performing his newer material, he knew that there was really only one thing everyone was waiting for.
As he introduced “You’re Beautiful,” his smash hit from 2004, Blunt said, “Orlando, I am reliably informed that most of you here tonight were probably conceived to this song.” And he probably wasn’t far off with that, considering that children born then would today be around 12-13 years old.
And it was Sheeran that the target audience, which was actually slightly older, were definitely there to see.
Sheeran soon took the stage, opening with his hit “Castle on the Hill,” and it quickly became clear the deceptively simple appearance of his performance was anything but.
Using a guitar and a loop pedal for the most part, Sheeran conjured up sounds far superior to many artists who have full bands on stage. Even the video panels, which at first glance appeared to be modest, were amazing entities, bringing each song, and each performance, to even fuller life.
Recalling that one of his earliest memories of performing in the States was at our very own House of Blues, Sheeran marveled at the vast difference in playing a venue the size of HOB versus filling an arena.
He also mentioned that he had a day off tomorrow and was willing to give it his all vocally on every single song as long as the audience promised to do the same. They were definitely up to the task. “If I lose my voice, I want you to lose yours too,” he said before he began prowling the stage as a hyperactive rapper for “Eraser,” then seamlessly bouncing back to a more subdued performance style once the melodic hook kicked in.
The musicianship involved with what Sheeran does onstage alone appears deceptively simple. But it’s not. There is immense talent at work there.
“This is the only time in the world where people all come together just to have fun,” Sheeran announced, before requesting that everyone just let loose with dancing, singing and clapping. And his performance of “Don’t/New Man” had the audience doing just that.
Sheeran shared with the audience that he had spent the day at Universal and was surprised to find there was a Simpsons area. Of course he had to pick up a pair of Simpsons slippers!
The video projections were incredibly gorgeous and inventive throughout the show, but the blood red presentation during “Bloodstream” was mesmerizing.
Perhaps the biggest audience reaction of the night came to Sheeran’s honest interpretation of his hit “Photograph.”
Recounting that his favorite song on the new album was “Perfect,” Sheeran performed it with beautiful projections of black and white roses giving way to falling red rose petals.
Perennial wedding favorite “Thinking Out Loud” garnered the biggest audience sing along of the night, but by that time both the voices of the audience, and Sheeran himself, were still going strong.
It’s hard to say enough about how impressive the on stage video panels were, but they were at their most active during his rousing performance of “Sing,” where they took on a complete life of their own. And speaking of “Sing,” Sheeran had the audience doing just that as he left the stage prior to his two song encore.
Returning to the stage wearing an Orlando Magic jersey, he launched into “Shape of You,” holding out with one of his biggest hits of late for the end. He finished the show with “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” but it’s clear…just as much as his fans need Sheeran, he needs his fans. It’s a perfect match and it was a perfect show.