You know you are an icon of the music industry when you have played at the MCG. The likes of Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney and Madonna have performed at the amphitheatre, but no one has ignited it like Ed Sheeran.
The British singer-songwriter held Melburnians captive on Thursday night in the first of two Melbourne shows as part of his Mathematics World Tour. Over 105,000 people witnessed a spiritual experience like no other, a figure that obliterated the previous record concert attendance of 80,703 set by Eminem in 2019.
From the get-go, the four-time Grammy award winner energised the crowd, opening with = song ‘Tides’. Proclaiming to the audience that this was the biggest show of his life, it signified that the road to global superstardom had been completed (if not already). From busking on the streets of Galway to centre stage of Melbourne’s sporting colosseum, Ed Sheeran is the perfect example of a rags to riches story.
In a touching tribute to late mate Shane Warne, Sheeran performed ‘The A Team’ in his honour, to the backdrop of over 100,000 phone torches that solely illuminated the stadium.
When ‘Castle on the Hill’ began to ring around the ground, it was only ironic that the stand reading his mate’s name was rocking just as Warnie would have been. It was at this moment that Project: Captivating the audience was in full effect. A medley of ‘Don’t’ and ‘No Diggity’ by Blackstreet worked to perfection, while ‘Give Me Love’ had the crowd in resounding harmony.
Sheeran would then pay tribute to Aussie music promoter and close friend Michael Gudinski on his two-year anniversary with ‘Visiting Hours’ (the song written about Gudinski), before belting out Australian classic ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’.
‘Thinking Out Loud’ and Justin Bieber’s ‘Love Yourself’ were two highlights of the night. The acoustic version of the ARIA #1 hit from 2014 generate a slow wave from the crowd, in what was a beautiful rendition of the song. Sheeran played ‘Love Yourself’ at a faster tempo, a song he wrote for Bieber. On a night where there were many pleasant surprises, this was a welcomed addition to the setlist.
The Brit finished the set with some of his biggest hits. Back-to-back tracks from the X album were played at different tempos, both of which effective. ‘Sing’ had the crowd jumping up and down like they were at a festival, while ‘Photograph’ was dubbed by a group acapella performance from the 105,000 strong crowd. If the Australian top 10 hit had the audience singing along, they were belting out ‘Perfect’ soon after. It again providing a visual spectacle to behold as fans resorted to raising their phone torches.
Ed Sheeran finished the set with a powerful rendition of ‘Bloodstream’, before performing ‘Shape of You’, ‘Bad Habits’ and ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’ as his encore.
By the time his two-hour set had finished, the eight-time Billboard Music Award winner had changed the lives of those who had the privilege to witness his masterstroke.
For me personally, I have never seen music as a form of spiritual experience, but Ed Sheeran’s opening concert in Melbourne captivated me like no concert has before. The talent the singer-songwriter displayed in front of a record crowd is something that a minute of artists can portray. ‘Lego House’ had no place in the setlist which was the only negative on a flawless night, but how can one song of personal preference undo a performance that regardless of whether the record attendance is broken again, will be talked about for generations to come.
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