Ed Sheeran at Glastonbury, review: One of the least satisfying headliners in recent memory

Singer-songwriter sticks to what he knows, which will have delighted fans but failed to win over other Glastonbury revellers

Jack Shepherd
Glastonbury Festival
Sunday 25 June 2017 23:23
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Ed Sheeran performs Shape of You at Glastonbury

This year's Glastonbury line-up has been quite hotly contested. Many felt that Sunday night headliner Ed Sheeran didn't have the upbeat songs to headline the prestigious festival. Consequently the troubadour, as with all first-time headliners, has a lot to prove, and convincing the naysayers will be no small task.

Before running onto the Pyramid stage, pop songs are played to warm up the remarkably packed crowd. There's no denying Sheeran has mass appeal thanks to some very radio friendly hits, even if many would never publicly admit to enjoying his music.

Having made an understated entrance, the singer stands alone with his guitar - as he does for the majority of the concert - multiple screens beaming out his image. Blasting though "Castle on the Hill", multiple smart phones are held up to record the hit song, the first big dance erupting throughout the field.

"I have to admit I'm very nervous," Sheeran tells the audience, that 'everyman' likability level turned up to 11. For the next number, there's some impressive loop pedal use, although he perhaps overdoes it a touch as the overall sound becomes messy towards the outro. Launching into "A Team", the crowd are asked to shine their lights into the air, the song marking the set's second mass singalong.

Although Sheeran admits there are songs most people won't know, he has the confidence to continue playing without anyone else on stage, apparently comfortable on his own. These songs don't require the intricacy of Radiohead's, nor the sheer volume of Foo Fighters.

Come "Galway Girl", Sheeran says "You may not like this song, but you probably know the words." Indeed, many do know the lyrics, as they do to "Lego House" which follows, such is the pervasiveness of his music.

Unlike Adele, who headlined last year to some contention for similar reasons, Sheeran hasn't quite the same charisma, trying instead to stay humble. There's a reliance on the music and the music alone - he even mixes Stevie Wonder's 'Superstitious' into a deeper cut.

A rendition of "Nancy Muligan" marks the appearance of other musicians who join the singer on stage, elevating the performance considerably. Unfortunately, they only stay on for one song, and the mood plunges for the sickly ballad "Thinking Out Loud".

On his biggest hit "Shape of You" off his third album ÷ [Divide], Sheeran proves why he progressed from the pub circuit to a guaranteed stadium filler, another singalong starting. It's the biggest moment of the evening, the song no doubt being the reason he's here. To finish, an extended version of "You Need Me, I Don't Need You" blasts out, Sheeran taking a moment to photograph the audience.

Will the sceptics be won over? Probably not.

Unlike other Glastonbury pop performers such as Adele and Coldplay, Sheeran did little to win over the naysayers - despite his talk of it before the show - and instead gave little more than the basic show his fans, and critics, assumed he would, even finishing half an hour before expected. Should Chic have headlined? Almost definitely.

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