Ed Sheeran Concert Review: Perspectives from a superfan and a casual fan

Written by on October 3, 2018

by Augusta Battoclette (casual fan) and Jessie Roos (superfan)

Augusta Battoclette

Ed Sheeran came on stage by himself in Pittsburgh last Saturday night after openers Anne Marie and Snow Patrol each respectively got the crowd warmed up in their sets. Armed with just a foot loop pedal, his guitar, his voice and a microphone, Sheeran captivated the audience for almost two hours. There is no debate that he is a talented live performer and can hold his own opposite a sold-out crowd of 39,000, however, in my eyes, the gig didn’t reach its full potential.

I went to the concert with my superfan friend, but being just a casual listener myself I wasn’t sure what to expect. To my pleasant surprise, I knew every song on the setlist but one or two. Sheeran started off with some of his slower songs and eventually transitioned into his upbeat songs in the second half of the set. While a superfan might like this setup because it can be seen as a metaphor for Sheeran’s success in the music industry, I felt it fell flat in terms of jazzing up the crowd. Even my friend, who knew every word to every song (even the fast-paced rap parts), was standing still for most of the concert. It just might be a Pittsburgh thing, but pretty much everyone in our section was sitting down as well. I’m not criticizing people for how they enjoy concerts, but I have to be standing up and dancing or moving the whole time to enjoy myself. Sheeran himself commented on this, saying “Your job, on a Saturday night, is to lose your voice tonight…the best thing is when you leave a concert and have no voice left” and encouraged people to dance, poking fun at those who were sitting.

However, the sheer talent of Sheeran and the beautiful screen visuals certainly made up for the lackluster crowd. I was in complete awe that one person can make an entire song with just his guitar and loop pedal. The songs sounded exactly like the studio versions as well, which just goes to show how talented Sheeran really is. His voice is magnificent and because he had complete control over the sound, he could showcase his voice on stripped-down ballads or show off his musical talent on the jocund guitar tracks.

The stage had screens all along the back wall, as well as two transparent rectangular screens on the sides and five screens in between lights above the stage. Every song had a unique visual that encompasses all the feelings of the songs and added a special touch to the performance. During “Eraser” early in the set, red lights stabbed all over the stage but then faded into cool blue and white lights during “The A-Team”. My favorite visual of the night was during Sheeran’s hit song “Shape of You”. As the song started, a glass tree sprawled out over the screens, with sharp, angular branches reaching up to the screens above the stage. As Sheeran sang “I’m in love with your body”, the glass shattered into thousands of pieces, revealing a real tree underneath. Throughout the song, vines began to grow up the branches and then bright and happy colors started creeping up the tree, eventually encapsulating every branch. The metaphor of this visual, being able to let your walls down as you fall in love, makes it so much more astounding. Other notable visuals were during “Thinking Out Loud” as the screens moved the audience through space, filled with stars and planets rushing by — the center of the visual was an animated drawing of two lovers as they fall in love — and “Photograph” as we got to see old photos of Sheeran as a young boy.

However, the best visual of all was the Pittsburgh skyline behind the stage, especially as the sun set a beautiful pink-orange color.

“Rest in peace, Mac Miller,” Sheeran said before leaving the stage for the final time. Showing respect to the Pittsburgh-native, who passed away earlier this year, Sheeran also donned a shirt with Miller’s face on it. It was a lovely way to pay homage to the artist in his hometown.

If you think going to Sheeran’s “Divide” tour means you will only hear songs from his junior album, you’re wrong. Sheeran managed to combine tracks from all three of his albums to give us a concert that was equally satisfying for all kinds of fans.

My main goal when I go to a concert is to enjoy myself and have fun. It’s safe to say that, despite feeling, for lack of a better word, bored at some parts, I definitely had fun seeing Sheeran live. Would I see him again? Yes, but I probably would buy nosebleed tickets.

It is obvious Sheeran loves performing, as this Pittsburgh show was one of many stops on his already year-and-a-half-long tour for “Divide”. The best part of the whole experience was watching how happy performing makes him, and how glad he is to have the opportunity to entertain. And that’s all any true artist can really ask for, right?

Jessie Roos

The man, the myth, the legend: Ed Sheeran graced the crowds of Pittsburgh Sept. 29. Alone on stage, he silenced the audience with his high vocals and musical ability. He honored the death of hometown musician Mac Miller by wearing his merchandise. This was a sweet gesture and definitely didn’t go unnoticed to the Pittsburgh crowd. I was very happy to hear Anne-Marie live, her gritty vocals translated perfectly to fill the stadium with a powerful voice. Snow Patrol came on next and tried to excite the crowd, but everyone was obviously just waiting to hear “Chasing Cars”. Either way, they ended with their biggest hit and got the crowd ready for Sheeran. After half an hour of waiting he finally came out, this the second time I’ve seen him live and even though it hurts my soul to admit, I wasn’t completely wowed.

The stage set up and visuals were sadly similar to the ones presented a year ago when he came to PPG PaintsArena. As someone who saw him only a year ago, his setlist didn’t provide any new thrills. I understand that his hit songs like “Shape of You”, “Thinking Out Loud”, “Castle on the Hill” and “Perfect” would never leave the set but I was hoping for more variety. The only two songs that were different from his show a year ago was “Tenerife Sea” and “Feeling Good/I See Fire”.

I would have liked to see him perform “What Do I Know” or “Heart’s Don’t Break Around Here” because his “Divide” album is so diverse and I would have loved to hear “Barcelona” over “Happier” and “Don’t”. I realize he has so many hits but there are some amazing songs that go unnoticed. Clearly, he has to keep the crowd upbeat but for some of his die-hard fans, it’s a little disappointing to hear the same songs.

Between songs, he still showed his cheeky and awkward self by imitating the awkward boyfriend or super dads in the crowd who might not really want to be there. His personality shines through when he speaks, but when he sings it’s like he’s in his own world. The cameras showed how concentrated he was and how passionate he was about singing when you’d see his eyes close and sway to his guitar.

My favorite song to hear live was “Tenerife Sea” to me this is the ultimate love song and has been out-shadowed by hits like “Perfect” and “Thinking Out Loud” but I fell in love with the lyrics and guitar picking the first time I heard it. This was my favorite moment because I always say this is my wedding song and it was really special to hear live, especially since he didn’t play it last year. I love how Ed Sheeran crafts love songs; he has a way of saying things is such an artistic way and it really brings out the romantic in me.

Other standouts were “Galway Girl” which was right after “Tenerife Sea.” Ed is a master of switching up moods so I had to recover a little from the switch from a sappy love song to an upbeat hit. This song had me dancing even though I was invading peoples’ personal space but I didn’t care. “Feeling Good/I See Fire” was a really interesting mashup because the two songs are so different. “Feeling Good” is jazzy and “I See Fire” is a soulful folk song. Even though these songs shouldn’t fit together he intertwined them flawlessly.

I will say the crowd seemed less enthusiastic than I remember. People were sitting and I could really only hear my voice when he asked the crowd to sing. That also could be because I’m very loud but a whole stadium should produce some sound.

Overall even though I was a little disappointed, I was still thrilled to see my idol live. He ended the night with “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” and I was shocked to hear him spit an improvised verse I couldn’t sing along too. As he exited the stage I made my way through the crowded crowd back to the bus stop, very happy and still very impressed.


All photos by @natesmallwood on Instagram

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