Wembley Stadium as a venue is so special; there’s something really cool about being at a gig and looking up to a blue sky. Had it been pissing it down my wonderment might have been slightly dampened. Honestly, support act OneRepublic surprised me. My sister asked me to list some of their songs before the set, and I could remember approximately two, but I found myself singing along to every song. Now, I know it’s not my resourceful brain that allowed this, but the many, many hits that OneRepublic have produced that haven’t been shoved in your face, but are ridiculously good and deliciously catchy. Remember Apologise with Timbaland?!?!??
Frontman, Ryan Tedder, is a bloody great frontman. His voice was unbelievable, surrounding the whole arena with riffs that should be unknown to a male vocal range. Every note was perfect as he jumped from guitar to piano to nothing but a mic. Lead guitarist, Zack Filkins was phenomenal in solos, and Tedder radiated energy as he danced around the stage. Towards the end of their set, Ryan recounted Ed texting them while on holiday, ‘Do you wanna play Wembley with me?’
Ed strolled on not long after in jeans and a check shirt, smiling and waving to 80,000 people like he was greeting his mum in his own living room – clearly settled with the superstar lifestyle he’s found himself in. After the first song, Ed told an anecdote about the first complaint he’d ever received after a recent show, where a woman asked for her money back because Ed Sheeran just ‘sang along to a backing track’. Ed was quick to defend, and I’m glad he did, because his musical ability could’ve fooled me. Every harmony, chord, rhythm and beat we heard was created from his guitar and voice in that moment. At the beginning or interlude of every song, thirty seconds was taken to record every flawless building block on a loop-with-the-tap-of-a-foot machine. I spent most of the time in awe of this process. Ed was able to effortlessly and rapidly put together every little piece of a number one hit without anyone even realising he was doing it. Like when someone tells you not to look at something, after Sheeran pointed it out, there were a couple of imperfections, which Ed rectified instantly. For me, this made the music so authentically credible, and I could appreciate it so much more wondering how he’d layered the multiple harmonies and how he’d pulled off so many different guitar abilities in just one song.
Vocally, Sheeran wasn’t faultless and he didn’t stick to exactly how the tracks sound on his record, but that made it so much better. A lot of the time, Ed spent with his eyes closed, trying to perfect an endless riff in a song. His talent is so raw, and his voice has such a soft and silky tone to it that melts so easily over guitar. Ed’s big and beautiful songs, such as ‘Tenerife Sea’, ‘Photograph’, and ‘Thinking Out Loud’ filled the arena with thousands of dazzling lights, and it was truly breathtaking. Couples clung to each other for dear life as Ed poured his heart and soul into every note.
Ed said at the very start that the crowd were going to play a big part in the night, and he actually meant it. In songs like ‘Give Me Love’, Ed got half of the crowd to sing a low harmony, and the other half to sing a higher one, while he sang over the top of us. I anticipated this to crumble horribly and we’d all laugh about it with Ed making a joke about how useless us non-superstars are, but it was SO GOOD. The energy that swamped the crowd was unbelievable; nobody was still, constantly swaying or dancing or sidling past you to get closer to Sheeran. You know when your mum asks you disapprovingly as a child, ‘would you jump if they told you to jump?’ Turns out if it’s Ed Sheeran, you do. In Sheeran and Rudimental’s love child ‘Bloodstream’, the standing area became a lil’ party.
From songs like ‘I Need You Man I Don’t Need You’ and ‘Don’t’, we all knew the unlikely rapper could very much rap, but I don’t think I ever fully appreciated how fast the words actually come out of his mouth. Most of the time he spent rapping I spent motionless trying to genuinely work out how he was doing it. Why wasn’t he out of breath? How could he remember all the words? Why hasn’t he slipped up when I can barely form a coherent sentence in day-to-day life? It’s so evident how much he enjoys performing his more upbeat tracks, by how he moves on stage and dances to his own musical creations, completely lost in the moment.
So… Sir Elton John showed up in a glittery blazer. I won’t lie – I did not see myself singing along to ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ which Ed and Sir Elton dueted on. Ed recounted that Sir Elton asked to simply attend the show, and Sheeran said ‘no, come play’ – in so many words. After they sang together, Sir Elton played piano while Ed sang his heartbreaking track ‘Afire Love’.
Towards the end of his set, Sheeran was sweaty and appreciative – a good mix. He spoke of Wembley being a dream once, and now a reality. I always wonder what it would be like for an artist to look out at an arena of tens of thousands of people, and it was clear from Sheeran’s face that it isn’t just any old experience. He was truly taken back. A pedal on his loop box broke, and as many of his crew ran around him desperately trying to fix it before the arena’s strict 10:30 curfew, Sheeran recorded two harmonies on the loop box and sang an impromptu track.
I’m very aware I’m talking about the chart-topping award-wining superstar Ed Sheeran like he’s a mate of mine – but it’s slightly unavoidable. He comes across so well. Most arena acts can put on a show but can’t really be grasped as a real life person, whereas Ed Sheeran appears genuine and, actually, like a really nice guy. One for the mothers.
He left the stage as 80,000 fans chanted ‘Sing’ back to him.