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Concert Reviews:
Ed Sheeran's a one-man sensation at the Fillmore Detroit

For Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Friday, January 25, 2013

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DETROIT -- It was hard to tell where there were more parents on Thursday night, Jan. 24 -- the latest Sesame Street Live! show at the Fox Theatre, or the lineup picking up their kids after British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran's sold-out show down the block at the Fillmore Detroit.

With Elmo in proximity, Sheeran may not have been the most famous red-haired star on Woodward Avenue, but it was clear that thanks to a Grammy Award-nominated hit ("The A Team") and associations with Taylor Swift and One Direction he's become a kind of one-man boy band, with a legion of sign-toting, mostly female fans whose concussive screaming and patience at the souvenir stand rivals the devotion shown to, say, a Justin Bieber.

But Sheeran is certainly a hipper version of a teen thrush and proved as much during his dynamic hour-and-45-minute set on Thursday. The songs from his debut album, "+," are certainly a more sophisticated blend of classic songcraft with contemporary beat sensibility, and his covers -- Nina Simone's "Be My Husband" and the folk traditionals "Wayfaring Stranger" and "Parting Glass" -- aren't exactly commonplace on YouTube channels.

And then there's his stage style, a unique, truly one-man band performance during which the animated and engaging Sheeran used sequencers to record and triggered sounds live, then loop them as backing tracks. The guitar-playing Sheeran did almost as much with his feet as with his hands -- and had the temerity to explain exactly what he was doing lest anyone feel like he was cheating in any way. But Sheeran, who proved adept at quieting the crowd when necessary, also established his mettle with occasional a capella vocals, sometimes off mic to take advantage of the Fillmore's acoustics.

The majority of Sheeran's set was drawn from "+," and every one of the songs -- including "Give Me Love," "Drunk," "U.N.I.," "Grade 8," "Small Bump," "Kiss Me" (performed with opener Foy Vance) and "Lego House" turned into singalongs, while Sheeran, sporting an olde English D on his T-shirt and performing in front of a wall of moving LED video squares, orchestrated a few energetic call-and-response exercises. "The City" was a muscular highlight, while an epic rendition of "You Need Me, I Don't Need You" stretched to 15 minutes, with plenty of vocal freestyling, guitar licks from Derek & the Dominos' "Layla" and a brief vamp with the night's other opening act, British rap duo Rizzle Kicks.

Towards the end of the show, Sheeran -- who returns May 4 to open for Swift at Ford Field -- noted that, "This is fun. Who's enjoying themselves?" And THAT response was probably loud enough to wake people up on the real Sesame Street.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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