Ed Sheeran – iTunes Festival
And so we reach the penultimate iTunes festival gig and our last trip to Camden Taaaaan – to be honest we could have covered Placido Domingo (not literally) on the 30th but just felt it could be taking it one step too far.
So, instead we’re here on a Monday night to witness the checked shirt ginger boy/troll superstar who has, on the one hand, become Britain’s biggest export since Marmite, and on the other, dramatically divided the nation’s opinion. This reviewer is taking his 16 year old son in a desperate bid to retain some cred in the family (cheap shot, but it’s playing out quite well).
Ed Sheeran. A man whose own fan base goes by the name of a really crap sounding breakfast cereal (‘Sherios’ – seriously?) and who chooses to name all of his guitars personally.A man who has also stood firm for 8 weeks at no1 with his latest album X. On this evidence, it is clear that there are several million out there clearly love him. It is also fair to say that there are a handful of this year’s iTunes performers who seem to capture an AAA-list excitement level all of their own; Kylie, Kasabian, Pharrell Williams and Sam Smith. Basically, if you received one of these golden tickets from Apple you would have been hi-fiving your mates, face-boasting and grabbing a guaranteed shag off your partner. Ed Sheeran was one of those golden tickets and there seemed to be a considerable amount of excitement hanging in the air. That, and the abundant supply of Lynx.
By now, we all know the deal with Sheeran. Yes, he’s going to turn up alone. Yes, he’s incredibly likeable and talented. Yes, he’s going to get the audience singing along and, yes, he’s going to use one of those recording devices that means he can sample his own farts if he wants to and make it sound half decent (he doesn’t).
But first, his support. I have to say we had completely forgotten just how great Foy Vance is. This generation’s Jackson Browne doesn’t do him justice, but it is what springs to mind when he starts his set with “Closed Hands, Full Of Friends”. His vocals justify the price of the ticket alone; okay, it’s free, but if it was expensive it would have been worth it, right?
Before Sheeran comes on, my son and I have a little bet as to which song he is going to start with. Things don’t get off to a flying start when he launches into ‘I’m a Mess’ and costs me £2 of my hard earned money. Bastard.
For the next hour and a half, he raps, he samples, he sings and he stands on the speaker monitor. A lot. But it’s the quieter moments where he resonates best. A stunning version of ‘One’ brings the house down and there is a superb duet with support Foy Vance for ‘Guiding Light’.
The last half picks up the pace and the Camden Roundhouse is even cheekily turned into a gospel choir for ‘Give Me Love’, which is surprisingly effective. Closing with ‘I See Fire’, before coming back to a genuinely show stopping ‘You Need Me More Than I Need You’, before a double whammy finale of ‘A Team’ and a communal ‘Sing’, it is notable that where he impresses the most is his ability to charm and disarm. What could have been a fairly predictable show of singer songwriter self-indulgence was in fact a genuine surprise.
So good on you Ed. You may have become slightly predictable in your “unpredictability”, but there aren’t many others like you out there. And anyone that has as dodgy looking tattoos openly emblazoned on their arm as you do is alright in our book.
Catch Ed Sheeran at his arena shows in October.