Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

Isle of Wight Festival boss John Giddings said 'if boring acts like Ed Sheeran are the future then we’re all screwed!'

Adam Sherwin
Friday 24 October 2014 16:17

Last week Ed Sheeran held an audience rapt across four nights at the O2 Arena armed with just his guitar and a loop pedal.

But this digital one-man show appears not to have impressed the organiser of the Isle of Wight Festival who claimed that Sheeran was too “boring” to headline his Summer event.

Speaking at the Live UK Summit 2014, John Giddings, an industry veteran who has promoted tours by U2, Madonna and The Rolling Stones, warned of a dearth of future festival headline acts once the “legacy” artists have left the stage.

According to a report by Virtual Festivals, Giddings said: “We’re not building headliners anymore. Nobody can invest in building a band over five albums. And if boring acts like Ed Sheeran are the future then we’re all screwed!”

Sheeran hit back at the organiser of one Britain’s biggest music gatherings. The singer tweeted that Giddings had actually “asked me to do the festival next year a few weeks ago, funnily enough, and I couldn’t do it due to another gig”.

Sheeran, 23, who has sold more than 634,000 copies of his X album in the UK since its release in June, has won praise for his stripped-back solo concerts, which have been turned into giant singalongs with adoring fans on his current sold-out tour of UK arenas.

His popularity should elevate the Suffolk songwriter into the category of festival headliner. But when he played at this year’s Glastonbury, Sheeran had the misfortune to follow Dolly Parton on stage and what should have been a triumphant performance was somewhat overshadowed.

Giddings, who admitted that Foo Fighters had already rebuffed a 2015 headline offer, relied upon old hands Red Hot Chili Peppers to send the Isle of Wight crowds home happy this year, along with Kings of Leon and Biffy Clyro.

The promoter later suggested that his Sheeran outburst was intended to be “tongue-in-cheek” and replied “fair play” when the singer disclosed his Isle of Wight approach.

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Yet Sheeran’s spartan presentation of his songs, may have exposed an exhaustion with the flamboyant, and costly, spectacle delivered by some headline pop acts.

Lady Gaga’s latest artRAVE tour features transparent walkways, two stages and a raft of costume changes. But it is playing to less than full houses and ticket agencies are trying to offload tickets for less than £13 for her O2 Arena concerts this week.

Even U2, whose 360° tour placed the band inside a giant “claw” and became the most lucrative in live music history, are promising a more “intimate” show, downscaling from stadiums to arenas, when they hit the road again in 2015.

Shuffling on stage in jeans, trainers and check shirt, Sheeran appears unlikely to upgrade his production in order to appease festival bookers. He told his O2 Arena audience: “My job is to entertain you. Your job is to be entertained by me. My goal is for you to leave this gig with no voice.”

Festival bookers are chasing Adele for next year’s headline slots. She also prefers a no-frills presentation but her preference for smaller concert halls rather than festivals makes the world’s best-selling singer a guaranteed ticket-seller if she does accept an offer.

Sheer torture: Is Sheeran’s one-man show a headline act?

Evening Standard

“Superconfident, nerveless amiability, as if it were the simplest thing in the world for one man to entice another 20,000 to sing his songs with him. Right now, there is nobody else even attempting what Sheeran is doing live and I'm far from sure there ever has been at his global level.”

The Independent

“Sheeran stepped on stage, just a man with a guitar, to the kind of deafening applause only given to true pop headliners. While his O2 performance was imbued with a bashful confidence, he was in complete command of his ever-growing band of disciples.”

The Times

“For the non-believer the appeal of Ed Sheeran over the course of this two-hour concert wore extremely thin. With little production and many of the songs sounding interchangeable it got very boring.”

Daily Telegraph

“Underneath the cavernous dome of the O2 the sound quickly became muddy: a wash of sub–bass, with Sheeran rapping and singing breathlessly over the top. A live band could have regulated the tempo and dynamics to match the room. As it was, all subtlety went out of the window.”

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