Ed Sheeran Returns To Manila For "Divide" Tour
And so it finally happened, the smashing return concert of Ed Sheeran. Originally set for November of last year, his unfortunate motorcycle accident led to him cancelling some gigs of his Asia Tour, and Manila was among the dates hit. But as the Bard liked to say, All’s Well That Ends Well, and for one glorious Sunday night at the MOA Concert Grounds; Ovation Productions, AEG, and SMART joined hands with thousands of Sheeran fans in welcoming the ginger-haired British troubadour back to our shores. Other features may focus on the "Who Was There" aspect, so be forewarned that this is more about the performance itself—although yes, Judy Ann Santos and Ryan Agoncillo were there, as were Julia Barretto and a host of other young stars—but for me, the night’s only true star was the one on stage.
Unlike other acts who come to stage concerts here, Ed Sheeran is very much an artist of today, not plying a string of yesteryear Greatest Hits. He does have memorable tunes under his belt with his three albums (+, x, and divide), but he’s one of the current Best Selling Artists on the planet. Not surprising then that he would open the concert with "Castle On The Hill," a certified global hit from last year—I love the Elton John, Tiny Dancer reference. His third number was "The A Team," by which time, he smartly had the entire audience in the palm of his hand, faithfully singing along to every line. "A Team" was his first hit and it is the song that first made me sit up and notice Sheeran—taking on such serious subject matter in a way that was couched in metaphor and an upbeat folk-influenced tune.
“This album, Divide, has gone 8x platinum in the Philippines. What surprised me most, what I love about that is that in my own home country, I’d gone 8x platinum, which means you have the equal amount of love for me than the actual country I come from.” That’s how much we love you, Ed. #DivideTourMNL Photo by @denise.vina
Which actually begs the point, as I heard young ten and eleven year olds singing every line; do they know it’s a song about a teenage prostitute addicted to crack cocaine? Inspired by conversations he had with young homeless girls in a shelter at the start of his career; I loved how Sheeran was ready to turn that experience into a song. Just wondered if the kids singing, and the parents of the kids, realise the dark, cautionary tale behind the lyrics.
Sheeran is a phenom on stage. With a loop machine in play, he would play back bars and even percussion lines he would create by tapping on his guitar; and by singing and playing over these loops, produce a full band sound with backing vocals. And all this, he was doing by his lonesome. It’s quite a feat when you think about it. The last time I saw an artist take the stage solo and create such an impact would be Jason Mraz back in 2002. As he was proud to announce early on, every sound we would hear would be created live that very night—it’s just allowing technology to enhance and do musical magic.
I’ll confess that I prefer his sing/talk, rap compositions or the songs with social commentary. I know his love songs and ballads have paved the way for his immense popularity; but lyrically, I find these compositions bland. Of late, he’s been exploring his Irish roots (his grandparents are Irish), and some songs are reminiscent of the jigs and reels we associate with music from the Emerald Isle.
On a sidebar note, I mentioned how "Castle" mentions Elton John’s Tiny Dancer; and if you like both Ed and Elton, seek out Sheeran’s contribution to the newly released Revamp album. Several artists interpret Sir Elton’s hits on Revamp, and Ed Sheeran sings Candle In the Wind. And let’s recall that when Sheeran first came out on the Grammies and sang "A Team," it was as a duet with Elton John.
Watching this dervish dynamo on stage; I completely got it, why he had to cancel his gigs after the motorcycle accident late last year left one arm in a cast. The live magic he goes by is done with just his voice and the guitar; and it would have been a cop out to have him just singing accompanied by a band. As he would have done in his busking days, it’s just Ed Sheeran and his guitar; but he’s now playing to stadiums and thousands of people. Sheer genius!