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Gig Review: Ed Sheeran @ Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland - 24/03/2018

25 Mar 2018 // A review by Paul Goddard
Walking from the car to Mt Smart Stadium and the heavens open. People are literally flooding in with the standard dress code for outdoor gigs here this year being Ponchos and shorts. Thankfully the rain stops as Wellington's Lost Bird take the stage. To be honest they fill a gap for 30 mins, but their alt country-tinged set doesn't really get people moving. They don't do anything wrong and engage with the crowd, but it is largely background noise as people get busy in the food and drinks stalls.

As darkness falls another Wellington band, Drax Project emerge. I missed these guys at Auckland City Limits but had heard good things. They immediately take command of the stage and crowd and it's easy to see why they got this slot. Their Jazz influenced pop carries well and Shaan Singh has that star quality with an amazing voice and some serious Saxophone skills. They are really comfortable on the big stage. These guys are set to be one of New Zealand's most exciting new chart-bothering pop acts.

Ok, I had some pretty negative preconceptions about Ed Sheeran (a bit like Hayley Holt) and this happens with any act that has his level of success. All of his albums have debuted at Number 1, he had more top ten hits off his Divide album than any other act, the most Spotify streams and by the end of this tour apparently 1 out of 20 New Zealanders will have seen Ed Sheeran perform!

So, let's see what all the fuss is about. He takes to the stage, one man, a smile and a guitar. It takes some guts to entertain 50,000 people for 90 mins without any band to back you up so this should be interesting. It is worth noting that a lack of screens at the side of the stage is a real shame as from the back people really struggled to see what is going on. Apparently, there were some tech issues due to the weather, but I am sorry, Foo Fighters played here the other month in one of the heaviest downpours I have ever seen and had screens covering the whole area! What compounds this tonight is Ed has obviously put some real effort into a backdrop which has him superimposed over some very cool imagery.

He uses a loop pedal to create the backing music and explains to the crowd that he isn't lip syncing or miming as some people had criticised at his last Glastonbury slot. His talent and personality immediately shine through. The songs are interspersed with funny banter and stories. This is all about him being him. Him being human and connecting with people.

He once said that being humble, being a likeable person and being himself are three of his strongest traits. This is why so many people like Ed Sheeran and buy his music. He is like the Dave Grohl of the pop world. Of course, he has real talent and rips through songs like Castle on the Hill, The A Team, and 17 other hit singles but there is no bullshit about him, no pretentiousness, no visible ego. There are a few fillers and mid-set the energy does drop a little but a stunning cover of Nina Simone's Feeling Good is a highlight and after a huge crowd sing along to the aptly titled Sing he disappears briefly to emerge with an All Blacks shirt on. It has the name HOLT emblazoned on the back as a tongue in cheek reference to Hayley Holt who said on breakfast TV that she couldn't see why so many people like Ed Sheeran. He clearly has a sense of humour and after an explosive version of You Need Me, I Don't Need You it is all over.

I still can't see myself listening to Ed Sheeran or buying any of his music as it just isn't my taste, but tonight I got to experience why so many people do. He does what he does very well, he is an excellent songwriter and singer and entertained a crowd of 50,000 people with just an acoustic guitar. That deserves total respect.


Review written by Paul Goddard
 

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