Walking on stage sporting some cargo shorts last worn by your older brother to a Limp Bizkit gig in 2000, what Ed Sheeran lacks in fashion sense he makes up for in live smarts, able to improvise a loop pedal-assisted singalong when he manages to break three guitar strings at once during opener ‘Give Me Love’.
Still in the mood to play around, he asks the crowd to be his “gospel choir” for the rest of the gig, repeatedly trying the now (appropriately?) rather hackneyed “split the crowd into two sides” thing. Luckily, his audience are in the mood to sing, but they’d rather do it to ‘Drunk’, ‘Lego House’ and, of course, ‘The A Team’, a set full of singles serving as a celebration of how far Sheeran has come in a year.
He’s right, too, to persist with his minimal guitar and loop pedal live set-up, managing to create a sense of intimacy even when on such a huge stage, as well as freeing the songs from the gloopy, mawkish production that album ‘+’ slides into at times, that a backing band might well try to recreate.
The main beneficiary of this is closer ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’. Vastly superior to the slightly ham-fisted recorded version, here it flies, with Sheeran building up the track with a series of loops before hollering along at high-speed. As always, it mutates into several other songs along the way, including ‘In Da Club’ and Damian Marley’s ‘Welcome To Jamrock’, the singer enjoying the opportunity to cut loose.
You feel he could do with a few more tracks in this vein to balance out the balladeering that has been so successful for him in the past year. Sheeran has his detractors, but then again, few people will get the Main Stage singing along as loudly this weekend. Like it or lump it, it looks like he’ll be a festival mainstay for years to come.