Ed Sheeran, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

2.00

 

Perhaps Ed Sheeran needs to experience more pain. He seems too happy, too affable. That's why his fans like him, but sometimes his music lacks emotional depth and authenticity.

When an artist touts their own authenticity as much as Sheeran you assess them on that criteria. The bluntness of the line, "I sing, I write my own tune and I write my own verse/ Hell don't need another wordsmith to make the tune sell" in "You Need Me, I Don't Need You", makes you wish he'd reconsider the decision and get a songwriter. His voice is great, clear, bright and versatile, he just needs some lyrics to match its strength.

"A-Team", about a homeless girl called Angel who Sheeran met at a Crisis charity gig, seems far from genuine. Sheeran's lyrics describe the imagery of what this girl might do in her day to day life – but only touch on her feelings about it. Again in "Small Bump" you notice that the lyrics shy away from emotional depth and focus on visual evocation: a baby's hand round a finger, with dimpled chin and a smile "like hers".

In interviews, Sheeran comes across as a down-to-earth guy, someone you'd share your lunch with if they forgot theirs. On stage, however, he needs to work on his banter. At the Shepherd's Bush Empire, in the second gig of his UK tour, he chose to adopt a schoolmasterly attitude towards his adoring fans. In the gospel song "Wayfaring Stranger" he actually shushed the crowd for fear they would overpower his mic-free singing and later when an ebullient audience member yelled out when Sheeran had asked for quiet, he responded with "you're spoiling it for everyone. Let's boo him." Perhaps this is the part of the "keeping it real" attitude that Sheeran holds so dear, but he risks dampening the fun a tad by telling off his fans.

Seventeen-year-old Nina Nesbitt, a tiny, fluffy-haired creature in a porkpie hat, joined Sheeran to perform a cover of "Hallelujah", and stole the show. The song wasn't ideally suited to her voice but she twisted it to fit her style and created some beautiful harmonies with him. Unfortunately for Sheeran, she was the best part of the night.

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