Concert review: Ed Sheeran shows his beautiful soul at Gwinnett show

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Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Caption
Ed Sheeran displayed his ability to croon as well as his nimble rhyming skills during his arena concert. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Ed Sheeran displayed his ability to croon as well as his nimble rhyming skills during his arena concert. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC
Caption
Ed Sheeran displayed his ability to croon as well as his nimble rhyming skills during his arena concert. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

The beautiful thing about an Ed Sheeran concert isn’t so much the effortless manner in which he interacts with fans.

Though who couldn’t be swayed by his regular-guy charm coupled with that Suffolk, England accent?

It also isn’t so much the repertoire of beautiful songs he’s crafted at a mere 23 years old – a collection of simple, yet elegant declarations of love that are heartfelt, yes, but also have the residual effect of making teenage girls swoon.

What continues to be a stunning side note at Sheeran’s live performances is his ability to silence a crowd of nearly 10,000 simply by asking.

At his first visit to The Arena at Gwinnett Center in December 2012 (as part of a radio station holiday concert), Sheeran asked for quiet so he could croon the traditional folk song, "The Wayfaring Stranger."

He employed the same request during his Atlanta return in January 2013 at The Tabernacle.

Last night, back at Gwinnett – this time as a solo headliner – Sheeran asked for a favor 11 songs into his set.

“Just chill…I’m going to ask you not to sing along…just rest your vocal cords,” he requested of the adoring throng, many of whom had driven a state or two to see him and/or waited overnight to queue up for a prime spot on the general admission floor.

The singer-guitarist – alone on stage as always, aside from his looping equipment – then began plucking the notes of “Afire Love,” the sweet and sorrowful song he wrote about his grandfather, who died during the course of the ballad’s creation.

Sheeran is, at times, an angelic singer and a nimble wordsmith (his rapid-fire one-two punch of “Don’t” blended with Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” illustrated his deft rhyming skills).

Caption
Sheeran has a deft touch with the guitar. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Sheeran has a deft touch with the guitar. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC
Caption
Sheeran has a deft touch with the guitar. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

But he’s always at his tousle-haired finest when crooning a slice of musical poetry such as “Lego House” or “One,” the tortured love song that opens his current album, “x” (pronounced “multiply”).

As he should, Sheeran spent a hefty chunk of the 100-minute show spotlighting that new release.

The arena floor was a sea of raised hands bouncing in Sheeran’s direction during “Bloodstream” as he strummed his guitar to a furious climax while stage lights flashed in a visual frenzy.

That mass of hands turned to lighted cell phones waved overhead during “Tenerife Sea” and then into some jokey, Sheeran-led dance moves for “Runaway,” which seamlessly meshed with the Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).” (Just curious: Are most of Sheeran’s fans old enough to recall BSB’s 1997-1999 heyday?)

As those who heard Sheeran’s insightful interview on Howard Stern’s SiriusXM radio show this week know, the ginger cutie is also an engaging storyteller. He applied that natural skill throughout his concert, but was most amusing when prefacing “Little Bird,” a bonus track from his first album, with a memory about his then-girlfriend and a chicken, both of whom inspired the song.

Although Sheeran clearly upped the production backdrop on this tour and performed under a cluster of sliding video panels and effective lighting, his show hasn’t changed much from his club days.

Caption
Rudmiental's Amir Amor. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Rudmiental's Amir Amor. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC
Caption
Rudmiental's Amir Amor. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Nothing wrong with that – he is who he is – but it makes you wonder if Sheeran will ever try to match an arena setting with the heightened state of his career.

Opening for Sheeran was Rudimental, the acclaimed British band trying to break in the U.S. after a couple of years of major success in their homeland.

The animated quartet – joined by several side players and singers – brought some rock, soul and drum and bass to the stage and immediately captivated the crowd with an original combination of playfulness, sensuality and grab-by-the-jugular intensity on songs such as “Not Giving In” and “Feel the Love.”

More, please, of this musical collective.

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