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Concert Reviews:
Ed Sheeran delivers a big-time one-man show at Ford Field

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Sunday, September 9, 2018

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DETROIT -- Ed Sheeran's first performance in the metro area was in 2012, opening for Snow Patrol at the Fillmore Detroit -- which he fondly recalled for fans on Saturday night, Sept. 8.

Suffice to say he's come a long way since then.

On Saturday the multi-platinum, award-winning British pop troubadour headlined just a couple blocks east at a nearly full Ford Field -- with Snow Patrol opening for him. "I never expected to be playing shows this big in America," Sheeran told the stadium crowd, and truth be told he is the most unlikely of stadium headliners -- a genuine one-man band who manages to fill any space, from club to open field festival, with sound using just his voice, a guitar and looping technology that allows him to layer sounds atop another.

For Saturday's 19-song, hour-and-50-minute set there were no pyrotechnics, no props, no visual stunts (other than Sheeran's playing technique), no satellite stages, no airborne rides above the crowd, no confetti -- all the usual totems of big stadium shows. Instead Sheeran -- clad in a Hoax T-shirt (and a Detroit Lions Matt Stafford jersey for the encores), jeans and open-lace high-top tennis shoes and sporting a wedding band from his recent wedding to Cherry Seaborn --simply brought a larger version of the video-laden staging he used last fall at Little Caesars Arena and played and sang his songs, including about as many hits as the Lions will deliver during their Monday night home opener.

And that was more than enough for the Ford Field faithful, who full bought in to Sheeran's every command to sway, dance, singalong and hold up their cell phone flashlights. "It's Saturday night -- we have the day off tomorrow, so we can all lose our voices. I know I'm gonna lose mine," Sheeran said early in the show, adding later on that, "When you play on a Saturday night, people just nuts."

As engaging verbally as he was musically, and charmingly self-deprecating, Sheeran -- who spoke about attending the Detroit Tigers game on Friday night, Sept. 7, and reportedly hung out with pal Eminem earlier that day -- did his best to rope in even the most reluctant in attendance on Saturday. He encouraged the "less confident" members of the crowd to loosen up, and targeted the sectors known as "the boyfriend" and "superdads," who may not have wanted to actually be there but came "to do a nice thing for a loved one...If you let go, I promise I will play at least one song in the next hour and a half that you won't hate."

There was, of course, plenty of love for those songs, drawn from Sheeran's three solo albums plus "I See Fire," which Sheeran wrote for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" soundtrack in 2013. He was particularly proud of returning the sentimental "Tenerife Sea," to the set but that was a rare break in a hit parade that ran from his first big single, "The A Team," through to the recent "Happier." Watching Sheeran create his full-bodied songs onstage was, as always, a marvel -- especially during "Bloodstream," "Galway Girl," "Thinking Out Loud" and the show-closing "You Need Me, I Don't Need You -- but amidst all that he's still primarily a top-tier songwriter, delivering versions of "Photograph," "Feeling Good" and "Perfect" without technological enhancement.

"If you can't tell, I'm having a lot of fun," Sheeran noted at one point. And at that moment he clearly spoke for just about everyone in the stadium -- even the put-upon boyfriends and superdads.

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