Ed Sheeran stepped onstage all alone.
All he had was his voice, his guitar, his songs and a chorus of voices ringing out from the crowd.
And more than 15,000 fans hung on every note.
“I’ve got the day off tomorrow, so I’m going to lose my voice, and you’re going to lose your voice with me,” he said. “I wanna hear volume tonight.”
For 90 minutes Tuesday night at the CenturyLink Center, he got it.
Sheeran performed the entire show — which spanned his three-album catalog and included smash hits “Shape of You,” “Photograph” and “Thinking Out Loud” — on his own.
Where many musicians with his success would hire a massive band and flood the arena with instruments, Sheeran sprinted in the opposite direction.
Playing a succession of acoustic guitars, Sheeran triggered a load of loop pedals to play his songs. Sheeran started each song by recording small parts — rhythm, bass, melody and even vocal harmonies — using the pedals and then stomping them at precise intervals to properly flesh out the song.
With his talent on full display, fans ate it up. The majority young women, the crowd matched him word for word on every one of the night’s 17 songs, most of them smash hits for the pop singer.
For those wondering, Sheeran’s massive talent is the simple explanation for his equally massive success.
For starters, his accessibility belies his talent. Sheeran’s a normal guy in a plaid shirt and shaggy hair who admitted Tuesday that he acts like a goon at concerts. He’s just like you and me, and his lyrics are similarly accessible, offering complex emotions in simple phrasing that anyone can identify with.
In addition to his songwriting ability, he’s got incredible vocal range, and he knows his way up and down a fretboard.
If there’s any criticism, it’s that Sheeran’s songs are overly sentimental.
Nearly every song Tuesday played on some kind of memory — of old friends, of exes seen on the street, of magical nights full of romance — and that cascade of sentimentality never ended.
Sheeran’s setlist Tuesday night was like if every song Eric Clapton ever wrote was a variation on “Wonderful Tonight.”
It makes me wonder what the people who think Taylor Swift writes too many breakup songs think about Sheeran.
Those at Tuesday’s concert certainly didn’t care.
When he strummed the opening chords to “The A Team,” he said, “Sing with me,” and they obliged. The only time he played an electric guitar, during “Thinking Out Loud,” fans sang every word. When he sang the so-sweet love song “Perfect” — “My favorite song I’ve ever written,” he said — they pulled out their phone flashlights and swayed as Sheeran strummed.
Sheeran encouraged them at every turn.
“If you want to dance like a weirdo, I’d like to see that. If you want to sing off-key, I’d like to hear that,” he said. “I want you to have as much fun as you possibly can.”