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Concert Reviews:
Ed Sheeran turns Palace show into "choir practice"

By Gary Graff
Digital First Media/@GraffonMusic

Posted: Thursday, September 18, 2014

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AUBURN HILLS – “You have not come here to see a show,” Ed Sheeran told the crowd at the Palace on Wednesday night, Sept. 17. “Tonight you are here for choir practice.”

And rest assured that the “choir” was in full, exuberant voice throughout the British troubadour’s hour and 50 minutes on stage.

The Ed Heads – a teen- and female-dominated crowd not dissimilar from what you’d expect at a One Direction or Taylor Swift concert (both of whom have songwriting connections to Sheeran) – were indeed at the Palace to singalong, to virtually every word of all 17 songs he performed. They took direction well, though it took a minute for them to get the hang of the softer volume he requested for the beginning of “Give Me Love,” and they matched his energy from the opening “I’m a Mess” to the upbeat, grooving finale, “Sing.”

So when he asked “the million dollar question – have you had a good time tonight?” everyone in the arena, including Sheeran, knew it was rhetorical.

What makes a Sheeran show so special, of course, is that it’s a truly one-man enterprise, just Sheeran and his guitars along with samplers and sequencers that allow him to build, live and on the spot, full and layered song arrangements that he controls with his feet. The dynamics aren’t much different than a full band performance, except that it’s created and executed by one man with intense and genuinely breathtaking precision, fusing the divide between earnest folk and raucous hip-hop and crafting a human exposition that’s even more dazzling than the images shown on the 14 video panels behind him.

It’s equally key that the 23-year-old Sheeran never let the technology run away with the show. As impressive as the constructions of ”Don’t,” “Bloodstream,” “Give Me Love,” “I See Fire” (from the soundtrack for “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”) and the particularly fierce “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” were, Sheeran was just as effective on “Thinking Out Loud,” which he performed with just voice and electric guitar, or on ballads such as “One,” “Tenerife Sea” and his breakthrough hit “The A Team,” which made only minimal use of his onstage devices.

Sheeran put down his guitar to display his rapping skills on “Take It Back” and “You Need Me…,” while he fused a bit of Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” to the end of “Runaway.” “The City,” which Sheeran said he hadn’t performed in two years, and the gentle “Kiss Me” were the night’s audibles, designed, he said, to keep the set list from becoming too rote.

The face of the matter is the fans in the cut-down Palace (the upper level was completely curtained off) would have hung with Sheeran no matter what direction he took. He’s made a unique kind of connection that’s both teenybopper mass popular and alternative hip, and on Wednesday he showed the two could co-exist in pleasantly melodic unison.

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