Ed Sheeran

Rock In Rio USA / Las Vegas, NV

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Photos by Ana Gibert

Ed Sheeran occupied the main stage last night armed with nothing but a live looper, an acoustic guitar and his modestly disheveled self, but that was more than enough. In all honesty, Sheehan looks and sounds like 40 talented guys we’ve seen at Folk Alliance or other Americana festivals, but his energy level and the consistently high caliber of his songs—not to mention strategic career opportunities like opening for Taylor Swift—have catapulted him to superstar status.

Early on, he informed the audience that his job was to entertain, and our job was to be entertained. By the end of the evening, Sheehan said, we’d all have no voice left. Almost ever song involved some sort of audience participation, and we mimicked Sheehan’s “ooo’s” faithfully, but it really fell to the man and his live looper to keep the momentum going. Using his own guitar licks as background, strumming and banging his guitar as his own rhythm section, Ed Sheehan puts out more energy and music than most quintets. He ran through most of his hits, including “Take It Back,” a long rap from his new album, which baldly details some of the ups and downs of his career and the effects of success. Sheeran’s sense of humor and tinge of bitterness toward the establishment comes through, as does his innate humanity, which in my opinion, is a big source of his success.

Without all the bells, whictles and background musicians available in the studio, Sheeran’s live renditions sound as good as what we heard on the radio, just more of it. His mega hit, “Don’t” had another several verses from the recorded version. The live version of “Photo” had all the young girls and a few guys teary-eyed around me, and I loved his mashup of “Superstition” and “Ain’t No Sunshine.”

Sheehan’s penultimate song was his first big success, “The A Team,” to these ears still a stunning song. He told a brief story about how difficult it was to have that song heard in the beginning of his career, another clue that he’s not settled into success, but close enough to the hard times to incorporate them in his life, and ours.

– Suzanne Cadgene

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