Review: Ed Sheeran at Croke Park
"My name is Ed, and my job for the next two hours is to entertain you." Good man, Ed, that's the mission statement out of the way. This is history in the making right here. A 24-year-old guitar-slinger from Suffolk, with just two albums under his belt, headlining Croker, the biggest stage of them all. Twice. That's 160,000 people.
One man, a couple of guitars and a loop station. No band, no backing singers, and nowt to help Sheeran carry the weight. Except, of course, for the sensational stage set-up (big screens, bigger effects - and, at one point, Smaug the dragon from The Hobbit). That's incredible. That, ladies and gentlemen, is something that Garth Brooks wouldn't have been able for.
"Oh, I'm a mess," sings Sheeran on the opening number this evening. Uh, you're far from it, dude. In fact, the multi-tasking prince of pop has got this covered. He reminds us that this is only the fourth time he has set up shop in a football stadium.
Wembley had him "bricking it". Croker, on the other hand, is a piece of cake. This is where Ed Sheeran (one of us, if we're playing the granny rule) feels most at home. This, he tells us, is his favourite place in the world - and, he's the one that used the word 'Croker' (yep, definitely one of us).
That one man is capable of holding his own in such a vast and daunting setting is a remarkable feat in itself, but Sheeran pushes things further, sweating up a storm and crafting magical moments of pop that hit every corner of this stadium.
The sound is exceptional; the delivery, both powerful and note-perfect. A slick and engaging performer, Sheeran won't stand still; he treats his guitar as a drum set, building sonic layers via the technical wonders at his feet.
Everything we're hearing tonight is live. A commanding presence throughout, Sheeran is his own choir. Sheeran is on lead, rhythm, harmonies and bass. The most talked about man in pop, would you believe, is a scruffy yet wholly charming troubadour and tonight, Sheeran shifts effortlessly from loved-up balladeer (Lego House, Thinking Out Loud) to unruly hip-hop warrior (Don't and You Need Me… are electrifying).
There are surprises, too, from Ed serenading us with On Raglan Road and shoehorning the work of his hero, Stevie Wonder, into the set, to Swords quartet Kodaline joining our leading man for a triumphant airing of All I Want.
Later, Sheeran dons an Ireland jersey, wrapping a tricolour around his microphone and splitting the audience in half (we're his choir, too). A cracking rendition of the superb Sing follows. Crikey, he didn't just pull this off - he knocked it out of the park. 5/5
> CHRIS WASSER
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