Dressed simply in blue jeans and a black Hoax brand shirt – the same shirt he performed in at the Grammys in February, a brand he became an ambassador for in January – Ed Sheeran returned to the Staples Center stage on Thursday, Aug. 10 for the first of three sold-out shows at the Los Angeles arena. The multi-Grammy Award-winning redhead looked like he just got back from the skate park and stopped at a bar to play a small gig – instead a crowd of more than 20,000.
Bringing the energy before Sheeran was opener Grammy Award-nominated British soft rock artist James Blunt, playing a full set that included his 2005 international hit single “You’re Beautiful.” Blunt shared a story about going on a ski holiday with Sheeran and collaborated in music-writing, including the song “Make Me Better,” which he jokingly said his wife said thanks to Sheeran, it is the most romantic song Blunt has ever written.
Around 8:35 p.m. Sheeran hit the stage. As soon as he strummed the first note of his hit single “Castle on the Hill” from his third and newest album “Divide,” the 26-year-old instantly showed that although his consistent grin and fashion look simple, his one-man show is far from stripped down.
Projections of scenic images of mystical roads and clouds circled around his face on large multi-layered screens, and immediately after finishing his first song, he stepped on his loop pedal to record the intro to his second song “Eraser” from the same album. Known for his art of live recording and looping multiple tracks on stage to create a full sound that has rattled arenas around the world, Sheeran demonstrated his multi-tasking ability impressively with “Eraser,” a song that has everything from various guitar sounds to his signature rapping skills.
Before he went into his third song, the pop-folk-rock singer gave thanks to Los Angeles fans and encouraging them to shine their phone lights as he went into singing, “White lips, pale face, breathing in snowflakes …” from his ballad “The A Team” off his 2011 debut album.
Sheeran picked up the pace with a mash-up of “Don’t” and “New Man,” with projections of emoji icons circling around him. With lyrics such as “Still looking at your Instagram and I’ll be creeping a little, I’ll be trying not to double tap from way back” (from “New Man”), one would think that his audience was full of female millennials, but his musicianship and catchy tunes appears to pull a crowd of all ages.
Challenging his thousands if they could be the loudest he has ever seen: “We’re in California, and we’re in Los Angeles. You guys can definitely be louder than Buenos Aires, right?” Sheeran went into his song “Dive” – once again looping every tune and beat with precision, and then looping his own audience by having them sway their arms in the air when prompted.
The song “Bloodstream” was next with projections of blood red images as Sheeran rhythmically tapped on his acoustic guitar to create a drumbeat – a technique he used for several songs later in the show. This track hit the hardest out of the 90-some minute set, with Sheeran singing his heart out and projections of red flames surrounding him, making the venue appear like it could go up in a blaze.
Then Sheeran recorded different harmonies of “hey” and “yeahs” on his second microphone before going into his songs “Happier” and then “Galway Girl,” which had images of the Guinness beer logo and green clovers dancing around him.
His second mash-up was a cover of the jazz standard “Feeling Good” and “I See Fire” – his commissioned song for the 2013 film “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” – and had the entire audience on their feet singing like a backup choir. Sheeran’s enthusiasm never ceased, taking only a small break to gulp down some water, before he rolled into his next song “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here.”
“I said at the beginning that we were gonna lose our voices from singing along,” said Sheeran, “So here we go, let’s sing.”
His hit song “Photograph” from his 2014 album “X” had everyone back up on their feet belting out the lyrics, “Loving can hurt, loving can hurt sometimes …” and photos of Sheeran as a baby and from throughout his career circled around him on the screens. He then declared his next song, a ballad titled “Perfect,” his personal favorite from his new album; images of red rose petals falling all around him set the romantic tone of the lyrics.
The pace was picked up again with his tunes “Nancy Mulligan” and his 2014 Grammy Award-winning song of the year “Thinking Out Loud,” which had the audience singing “Sha-la-la-la” as Sheeran performed on his electric guitar; still sounding like a full band was behind him. Then, before heading off stage, he performed his high-energy song “Sing.”
For the encoure, Sheeran came out in an L.A. Kings jersey, belting out his recent Billboard hit “Shape of You” and finishing off with the upbeat “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” from his debut album for a final hands-in-the-air, sing-a-long with his people.