Okay, I didn’t meet him meet him. I just met him, and by that I mean I saw him in concert on May 10, 2015. From across the enormous Scottrade Center arena in St. Louis, to be exact, I met the artist who I have since learned is one of the hardest-working musicians performing today. And that’s the main reason why I’m an Ed Sheeran fan.
Even though Ed and I met on Mother’s Day two years ago, going to see his Multiply concert wasn’t originally intended to be a Mother’s Day outing for my daughter and I. Several months before, my daughter had purchased two tickets for herself and a friend without realizing that the day of the concert was also the day of her college’s graduation exercises. So the friend she had originally asked couldn’t go. Turns out her friend just had to graduate or something. So I went instead. It was Mother’s Day after all, we both agreed as we took the four-hour drive.
Before going to the concert, I really wasn’t familiar with Ed. Even though I had given my daughter his Plus and Multiply CDs as Christmas gifts, I didn’t understand his music or his performing style. I didn’t understand that when you went to an Ed Sheeran concert, you were going to a concert starring Ed Sheeran. And no one else. There is no band, no backup singers, no other musicians. There is one exception: his guitar technician, who would, after each song, walk out to Ed, take his guitar and hand him a new one with the capo placed, or the strings tuned, for the next song. Sometimes the guitar tech just handed Ed a new guitar in exchange for the one he had just destroyed. Yes, Ed Sheeran, king of the exquisitely-worded love ballad, can destroy a guitar. Into several pieces.
This happened onstage, in the heat of the concert. Ed transformed many songs from their original three- to four-minute length to 15- to 20-minutes. And this is when Ed revealed his alter-ego, when his guitar also functioned as a drum and he beat on it with his fists and the palms of his hands to take any song and morph it into a raucous, mind-blowingly loud tour de force accompanied by giant backdrops that exploded with psychedelic patterns, colors, and images to add a visual element to the audible. He did this with “Runaway”, “Bloodstream”, “I See Fire” and other numbers.
Still, the Ed that everybody knows and loves does dominate the show. But he returned smartly and consistently to his specialty: the songs that first come to mind when you think of Ed Sheeran: “Thinking Out Loud,” “Photograph,” “The A Team,” and “Lego House.” These songs surprisingly thrive in the presence of thousands. Maybe it’s because of the darkened arena when Ed asks everyone to turn on their smartphone lights. Thousands of lights dot the arena like the starriest sky as seen from an isolated prairie. The stars gently sway in rhythm to the music, and to the one man singing alone onstage.
To accomplish his one-man band, Ed uses a loop pedal, a device that records and layers chord progressions, riffs, vocals, beats, and other musical components until the song, in all its complexity, is pulsing out of the speakers while, all alone on that big stage, Ed plays the last layer of guitar live and sings his beautiful songs.
So, thanks to my daughter, I’m a big fan of Ed Sheeran. It’s fun to attempt to play some of his songs, the tabs for which I find online or on Youtube. Thankfully, some arrangements are doable for a guitar novice like me. Some, clearly, are not. Ed Sheeran definitely has a gift for songwriting and guitar playing. He would tell you, as he does in his book A Visual Journey, that it’s not so much a gift as simply a product of hard work and practice. Ahhh… music to my motherly ears. An artist with the work ethic to match his ambition.
Now that’s an artist that I, as an adult, can admire. I really like Ed Sheeran. I mean, I don’t like him like him. I just like him.
My daughter and I will see Ed again tonight at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. I’ll fill you in on how things go in an upcoming post.