Ed Sheeran, iTunes Festival, The Roundhouse, London


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

"If you think you’re too cool to sing, you’re at the wrong gig," Ed Sheeran gently warns us, and his faithful – the Sheeranators - dutifully sing, sway, whoop, clap, and, even, hug (the troubadour asks us to hug the person next to us, which most obediently do) on demand.

In fact, the demands are never-ending, for "Give Me Love" this extremely self-assured singer and beatboxer instructs us to be "his gospel choir", while on the catchy "The A-Team" there’s a request for a "sea of lights". It’s almost total obedience from his young, mostly female, followers. For the most part it’s like being a non-believer at an evangelist meeting, and for the first two-thirds of this televised concert the wild adulation is baffling. At best, his earnest ballads lack depth, such as on the dirges "Small Bump" and "Drunk" where he pleads "I wanna hold your heart in both hands/ I’ll watch it fizzle at the bottom of a Coke can". At worst they lack wit, poignancy or spite – three vital ingredients for a compelling pop/rock song. It barely matters as the believers know every lyric, forcefully singing "Drunk" back at their carefully tousled hero.

There’s no doubting Sheeran’s musicianship; he’s a virtuoso on the acoustic guitar, frequently attacking the instrument with relish and his use of the loop pedal is impressive. Undeniably, the 21-year-old from well-heeled Framlingham, Suffolk is a phenomenon: his debut album, +, has been certified quadruple platinum, he’s bagged two Brits and an Ivor Novello, he provokes mass, Justin Bieber-style teen screams and he even performed Pink Floyd’s "Wish You Were Here" at the Olympics' closing ceremony. Most of his success was achieved off his own back, with little industry support.

"Don't need another wordsmith to make my tunes sell… I didn't go to Brit School," raps the polite outsider, in a reggae-tinged accent, on a feverish "You Need Me, I Don’t Need You", which includes guest spots from Devlin, Wretch 32 and Chipmunk. However for all his frequent protestations against the Brit School and The X Factor, slick soul numbers such as "Lego House" would fit neatly into the talent-show format. His sound is very commercial; even his new tattoo is sweet – a koala bear climbing a tree.

Does one very lovely moment make a decent gig? It certainly redeemed this one, with Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody joining Sheeran for an electrifying rendition of "Chasing Cars".

Towards the end someone behind me tentatively admitted to his female companion, "This isn't really my cup of tea". He had a point.

This article features Listen with Spotify