Ed Sheeran's Tour Kickoff Is a One-Man Triumph

Ed Sheeran, Christina Perri
BBVA Compass Stadium
September 3, 2015

Ed Sheeran does so much with so little that it’s almost infuriating.

Thousands upon thousands of people packed a soccer stadium to watch him get onstage, alone, and play some songs with nothing more than a guitar and loop pedals. It was an utterly ridiculous situation, and yet it was totally captivating.

Ed Sheeran is that chill dude who is secretly on his grind at all times. He’s the type of dude you’d be fine going out for beer and pizza with if he weren’t on the road playing stadiums. He wears cargo shorts — the lazy man's favorite kind —  but he works his ass off on stage to give the people what they want.

He has this amazing ability to take his songs from their recorded state and build them live; by doing this all on his own, he takes songs that are good and turns them into miniature epics. These are songs that may not have been written for stadiums but are perfectly at home in them.

It wasn’t a flawless show, but any issues on Sheeran’s end are easily chalked up to this being the start of his biggest U.S. tour to date. In fact, at the start of the show he said the Houston show was the largest he’d ever played in America. There were a couple of mike issues that caused hiccups in his crowd banter and the sound was a little off during the set opener, but these things happen on the road, no matter the size of the venue.

For as good as the show that Sheeran put on was, there was something off about the vibe of the night. Sheeran was on fire. The crowd loved him and were game to clap and sing with him. Yet the entire night was missing that buzz of nervous excitement that comes with big pop spectaculars, that energy you feel of so many fans gathered in one place.

BBVA is a nice facility and, I assume, a wonderful place to see a soccer game, but I’m not sure it’s a great place to see a concert. I can’t help but think the open air and the shape of the venue is what kept the energy feeling slightly off the whole night. When the crowd roars as the star takes the stage, then sounds dead as soon as he starts performing, something isn’t right, and I don’t think Sheeran or the crowd were to blame.

That said, I suspect no one walked away from the stadium feeling disappointed with the show. After all, he busted out his collaboration with The Weeknd (“Dark Times”) for the first time live and put “Small Bumps” back into the set on what seemed like a whim. Plus, there’s some song called “Thinking Out Loud” that the crowd was mental for.

Did I mention he’s really good at what he does?

It’s not that Ed Sheeran is some once-in-a-generation talent or anything, he’s just a gifted songwriter who happens to be an amazing live performer who happened to come along at the right time. That he’s playing stadiums is bizarre, but in a refreshing sort of way.

That he’s alone at the top of the pop world doing what he does is almost infuriating.

So, How Was the Opener? Honestly, watching Christina Perri, all I could think was, “Why isn’t she more popular?” Her songs are good, her stage presence is excellent, and the crowd seemed to really like some of her stuff. Then the set ended and I realized what the problem was: her songs are good, close to great, but she doesn’t have that one truly brilliant, sublime song to finish her set with. It was like her time onstage was building to a climax that never came. She’s great, but she’s missing the song that will turn her into something special. I hope she finds it.

Personal Bias: Last time he was in town, Sheeran was opening for Taylor Swift over at the Toyota Center. I was super impressed with his performance and thought to myself, “Man, it’s going to be awesome next time he comes through and places somewhere smaller like Bayou Music.” Oh, bother.

The Crowd: If you buy tickets on the floor, girls and boys, don’t wear shoes you’re not comfortable in. No one fell, but I saw a lot of people walking awkwardly on those slightly bouncy plastic boards they were using to cover the soccer field.

Overheard in the Crowd: Nothing, because there was a literal banshee behind me whose screams kept piercing the night air. Seriously, instead of using heavy metal to torture people, we should just have pop-music fans scream in their ears. (PSA: This is sarcasm. Torture is bad and no reasonable country should reduce itself to using it as a means of gaining information.)

Random Notebook Dump: Pretty sure Sheeran was drinking Hill Country Fare Natural Spring Water onstage. If I’m wrong, don’t correct me; I’m happier with my headcannon.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia