Our favourite Ginger Brit just went seriously desi for his debut India performance, and took Mumbai's Jio Garden by storm — in a kurta. Ed Sheeran just performed in front of hundreds of Sheerios, and looked pretty fine doing it. So many concerts today are based on wowing the audience with costume changes, laser lighting, and pyrotechnics, but certainly not this one. Ed stood along on a stage with a screen arranged behind him for the crowds that thronged the arena. Other than that it was literally just the singer, his guitar, and his loop pedal.
Setting the tone for the evening for the India leg of Sheeran’s Asia ÷ (divide) Tour was 23-year-old American artist Lauv who proved to be a stellar opener as he played hit singles like I Like Me Better and Easy Love.
But Sheerios did not have to wait long to see their favorite Ginger Brit. The man of the hour was right on time, and strolled on to the stage in a wait for it - an ocean blue Cama Balpande of BookASmile kurta (heck it even had 'divide' written in devnagri script at the back).
The Grammy winner began with an ode to his hometown, and sang Castle on the Hill first. The singer from Halifax, United Kingdom, ripped through the soaring guitar anthem whose rock band-influenced guitar builds crescendoed to a stadium-filling chorus.
Sheeran then performed Eraser, with a perceptible attempt expended in the song’s dexterous autobiographical rap, but the architecture of its percussive climax and falsetto harmonies was so efficiently constructed that one might not have noticed Sheeran at labour. Though he appeared and sounded every inch the pop star, the message of the song seemed sincere as his smile never faded throughout his 17-song set on his 109th tour stop.
Even though one could see no one but Ed on stage, the concert didn’t seem like a show put on by one man. It seemed like the show relied on the inclusion of the entire crowd as Ed urged each member of the audience to sing as loud as they could, even if they are out of tune and dance to whichever move they pleased. He continuously complimented Mumbai and how thrilled he was at being able to perform for his Indian fans.
Switching from one guitar to the next – depending on the song he was going for – every move Ed made on stage was done with a purpose, which was to keep the energy soaring. Ed in between his songs admitted that he is "not a concert guy" and wouldn't readily wave his hands if anyone asked him to but urged everyone in the arena to enjoy his music.
The 26-year-old balanced the intensity of his performances with romanctic songs like Happier, Perfect, Thinking Out Loud coupled with fast paced numbers such as Eraser, Shape of You and Galway Gal. People readily ditched their phones and swayed along with their partners and friends. When Ed sang “I feel the chemicals burn in my bloodstream,” it was as if everyone's bodies were charged up with chemicals. Of course, there were also songs the crowds were not familiar with, and many took to the popular app Shazam to look up the number.
In an era where people seem to always be occupied by technology, it was a welcome change to see fans ditch their devices to wave both arms in the air and grab their neighbor for a dance during Sheeran’s Irish jig Nancy Mulligan inspired by his grandparents’ own love story, and A Team - done fully acoustic, with no looping, amid a sea of cellphone flashlights and a mass singalong.
“India you are always special and this night is magical," said Sheeran, as the crowd cheered. Ed disappeared and changed from his kurta to an Indian Jersey delighting fans. With Shape of You, the crowds seemed to have reached peak energy level. There was no silent throat in the entire compound. The performance was ended with You Need Me, I Don’t Need You, which seemed to be the perfect ending to the gig because without music what are we?