Saturday 18 November 2017

Ed Sheeran at 3Arena review: He opens on a high note – but where does he go from here?

Ed Sheeran performing on stage last night. Picture: Damien Eagers
Ed Sheeran performing on stage last night. Picture: Damien Eagers

Eamonn Sweeney

Every time Ed Sheeran rolls into town, the pre-show buzz really feels like a homecoming.

Even though he was born in Yorkshire and raised in Suffolk, Sheeran's life-changing musical epiphany occurred in Dublin. After catching a Damien Rice gig in Whelan's of Wexford Street, the young red-haired songwriter decided to dedicate his life to music. The rest is history. In an age of shrinking album sales, Sheeran and Adele have been credited with keeping an ailing record industry afloat.

Fans enjoying the gig. Photo: Damien Eagers
Fans enjoying the gig. Photo: Damien Eagers

The last time Sheeran appeared in Dublin, he played multiple nights in the significantly larger Croke Park, so this two-night stand in the relatively tiny 3Arena is as small as it gets in his Wembley stadium headlining universe. It's mind-boggling to consider that he headlined Croker for two nights in 2015 on the back of just two albums. Blue chip names such as Bruce Springsteen and U2 spent a good chunk of their entire careers to reach this stature.

The stage set is far more elaborate and snazzy than those shows, but the essential ingredients remain exactly the same. Sheeran performs solo as a one man band with only a guitar and a loop pedal for company.

Opening with 'Castle on the Hill', the capacity crowd immediately squeal with delight. "Dublin, this is always the most fun of any date on the tour," Sheeran says to a backdrop of hysterical screams.

For large sections of the set, the crowd almost drown him out. He has a very good party trick in creating a wall of noise on his electric-acoustic guitar, which frequently reaches a deafening crescendo. The colourful visuals lend the evening an almost psychedelic feeling.

Caoimhe O’Connor, left, and Lisa Devaney from Galway. Photo: Damien Eagers
Caoimhe O’Connor, left, and Lisa Devaney from Galway. Photo: Damien Eagers

While large parts of his set leave me completely stone cold on a musical level, there's no denying the fact that Sheeran is a consummate entertainer. While he is certainly not reinventing any musical wheel, he has found a Damien Rice inspired niche that brings acoustic pop to the masses with a slight twist of contemporary urban music.

He also deserves some credit for propping up the emergent career of rising grime superstar Stormzy at the Brit Awards, who is now poised to headline the Longitude festival.

Sheeran opened this short Dublin run on a high note. Tonight is bound to be equally as euphoric. The only question left is where can he possibly go from there?

Grace Kelly, right, (18) and her sister, Emily (21) from Cork, before the concert. Picture: Damien Eagers
Grace Kelly, right, (18) and her sister, Emily (21) from Cork, before the concert. Picture: Damien Eagers

Irish Independent

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