T-shirts Work, Too: Ed Sheeran’s Divide Concert

 

 

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Photo Credit: Katherine Yung

 

I’ve seen Ed Sheeran twice in concert and neither time was he wearing a plaid flannel shirt. What’s going on, universe?! Two years ago, at his Multiply concert in St. Louis, he wore a red t-shirt sporting the logo of his opening act, Hanson. Read about that experience here. On June 29, at his Divide concert at Sprint Center in Kansas City, he wore a black t-shirt sporting the logo of Hoax, a British surf and skateboard maker. (Ed, you’re such a marketer.) The black was definitely a better choice, since it didn’t clash with his ginger coif, but I’m still a little annoyed that I haven’t seen Ed in his quintessential attire. Oh well, I’m being shallow, and Ed, the king of acoustic sounds, and lovely romantic ballads, would not be pleased with that.

But maybe he’s just branching out with his clothing choices. Kind of like he’s done musically with his Divide album released last March. When compared with his two previous albums, Divide contains a bewilderingly diverse array of musical styles, and exhibits a long leap from when he quietly made his mark with Plus and then followed that with Multiply, where he solidified his status on the world stage as arguably today’s most popular male solo artist.

Divide was such a diversion from his normal fare that I was confused at first. I mean, don’t tell anyone, especially Ed, but I didn’t really care for his song, “Castle on the Hill,” until I saw it performed in concert. The song sounded like something by U2. And even though I’m a big U2 fan, I like my Ed Sheeran to sound like Ed Sheeran.

However, seeing him stride purposefully onstage while strumming the introductory frenetic chords, approaching his loop pedal, then layering the various instrumental parts, sealed the deal for me and I thought to myself: Enjoy this moment. Take it all in. You’re at another Ed Sheeran concert and this is gonna be so great.

And it was. The opening number began after show-opener James Blunt left the stage at 8:30 p.m. It was an enthusiastic audience that contained more men and couples in attendance than I remember two years ago on Mother’s Day when it was clearly a girls-night-out crowd. As he began his second number, Ed even mentioned that he could tell he was now in the States because “everyone smiles here.”

That made Sprint Center erupt in an ear-splitting roar as it settled in for the concert it had waited two long years for. Two long years, people, including one when Ed disappeared from social media and high-publicity events. One long, cold year that would be marked on world history timelines as the dark age devoid of life’s most basic need: cute pictures of Ed’s cats. Sheerios (and mom-fans like me) were ready for this show.

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Photo: Ed Sheeran Updates on Twitter

The set list then included the following in this order:

  1. Castle on the Hill (perfect show-starter, love it now)
  2. Eraser (lots of rap, sweeping chorus)
  3. The A Team (the song, crumbling pastries and other sadness)
  4. Don’t (keep hands and feet in the car at all times)
  5. New Man (those lyrics!)
  6. Dive (soulful, bluesy, awesome)
  7. Bloodstream (drug reference, dang it)
  8. Happier (how-can-I-go-on-living reference),
  9. Galway Girl (Ireland reference)
  10. Feeling Good (yes, we are)
  11. I See Fire (from The Hobbit— I can play this on my guitar, kind of)
  12. Supermarket Flowers (ode to his grandmother, beautiful)
  13. Photograph (again, and of course)
  14. Perfect (someone proposed– Ed advised “Say yes!”)
  15. Thinking Out Loud (required on setlist for duration of career)
  16. Nancy Mulligan (Sheeran genealogy lesson)
  17. Sing! (okay, if we must)

Around 9:50, he said something along the lines of “Kansas City, you’ve been great!”  My daughter and I looked at each other, and then at our phones to catch the time. What?! It’s over already??

We couldn’t take him too seriously, of course, because we knew he still hadn’t performed one certain song. So, toying with our emotions, he strode off the stage, and the whole place yelled in a panic. And then in true Ed style, he sheepishly returned and finished the show with:

18. Shape of You (something like a billion streams and counting) and

19. You Need Me, I Don’t Need You (a reference to “the industry,” not his fans)

As usual, the stage contained one person: Ed. He performed below a mammoth video projection apparatus that resembled the shape of a carousel. It combined giant, crystal-clear live images of Ed interwoven with colorful animations and photography for each song in the concert. So even though our seats were in the upper reaches of the venue, we watched Ed perform in close-up. Totally cool.

It was even cooler when he noticed a child about ten rows back crying apparently over the noise level. He then located a set of headphones for the boy or girl and even ventured down into the audience and adjusted them for the child. The five-minute act of kindness earned a lot of “Awwws!” and Ed likely did it because he knew what was coming: an especially raucous, loud, and long version of “Bloodstream.” That Ed. What a guy.  As thoughtful as ever… even if he’s moved on from his flannel-wearing days. It’s okay, I’m over it. T-shirts work, too.

 

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Photo: Impose Magazine

 

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Seeing John Malkovich (at LA Farmers Market)

FullSizeRender (14)During the summer of 1992, I saw the actor John Malkovich. In person. He’s the actor who plays one of the old guys in the movie, Red. The weirdest old guy in the movie, if that helps you place him. He’s also the actor who played Lenny in Of Mice and Men alongside Gary Sinise. He also played the presidential assassin of In the Line of Fire who was eventually hunted down by Clint Eastwood. He played himself in Being John Malkovich, a photojournalist in Cambodia in The Killing Fields and a downright, really bad, despicable man in Dangerous Liaisons. Nearly all of Malkovich’s movies contain unique characters that the actor is able to pull off in the most believable way. He has been in loads of other films, but these are the ones that to me exemplify his ability to capture idiosyncratic characters believably.

Notice that I say I saw John Malkovich. I did not approach him. I did not speak to him. I merely leered. My husband and I and another couple were having coffee at the Farmer’s Market on a cool, sparkling morning in Los Angeles. There were probably foodstuffs and produce to purchase somewhere in the market, but we were just there to hang out. As we sat there, I noticed a scruffy, shabbily-dressed man hastily walk by. I immediately recognized him.

“That was John Malkovich,” I quietly told my friends. They discreetly and slowly turned to confirm it, and yes, oh my gosh, that is him, they said. He continued walking into an open-air newspaper stand/bookstore next to the scattering of tables and chairs that we occupied. I followed, surprising myself with my sense of daring and willingness to annoy. He looked at some magazines or newspapers in the bookstore and gathered no attention.

Based on the characters he so effectively portrayed in films, I was a little scared of him. Sure, he had only been acting when he shot the two men point-blank in In the Line of Fire, but my only exposure to the actor at that point had been in seeing him play characters fit to be feared. Even in Of Mice and Men, Lenny is sweet and unknowing; however, he is also, in the end, a murderer.

In addition, it was clearly obvious Malkovich did not want to be bothered. He didn’t want to be recognized. His incognito dress seemed to indicate that: wrinkled beige cotton or linen tunic and loose-fitting painter’s pants, a doo rag, sunglasses. It seems he was also carrying a satchel or bag slung across his body like a shield to protect him from those pesky and annoying star-crazed fans. What would I say to him anyway? Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?

My fear kept me from asking for the obligatory photograph. I had left my camera at the table with my friends so going to get it after asking for a photo would, I speculated, turn the casual encounter into more of an event than Malkovich would tolerate. True, I could have retrieved the camera before asking for a photograph, but I didn’t consider that because, as an annoying, star-crazed fan, I wasn’t thinking clearly. Besides, he might have that plastic gun on him that he made by hand in his seedy apartment back when he was trying to murder the president.

So I just eyed him from about twelve feet away, pretending to scan the headlines on a carousel rack of newspapers at the store’s edge. It was enough. I had seen “the” John Malkovich, a big-time celebrity in the flesh. It was my own personal brush with someone else’s fame.

Now, whenever I see Malkovich in a movie, I think about our near encounter. Pretty famous guy. Well-respected. Should have asked for a photograph. He probably would have acquiesced and been an interesting person to have what would most likely have been an uninteresting conversation with. Oh, well. Usually now when I see him in a movie, I say to my husband,“Hey, there’s my friend, John Malkovich.” And then without lifting our eyes from the screen, we chuckle, and continue watching the movie.