As this year’s iTunes Festival draws to a close with just Placido Domingo to go, sticking out like a ginger student in this month of stars was pop’s biggest anti-hero, Ed Sheeran.
The hard-gigging singer who broke through with The A Team is now A-list and on the surface he hasn’t changed – same scuffed look, still playing solo with nothing but loop pedals and towering self-confidence for company. Yet life is very different now he’s multi-platinum. It’s telling that much of the discussion around this year’s huge-selling second album, simply titled x, concerned which celebrity exes he was singing about.
On stage, the lyrical content was less striking than the sight of him conjuring great walls of sound on Bloodstream and Give Me Love, thudding the body of his acoustic guitar for rhythm and tapdancing around his pedals and two microphones. Like the puppeteers of War Horse, after a while you stop trying to work out how he’s doing it and give in to the magic. The audience was his only backing band, corralled to provide extra vocals at every opportunity.
He was less gripping in the quieter moments. There were points when a rise in chatter suggested that he had lost a portion of the crowd.
However, his minimal set-up still permitted a long and varied set, from the rapidfire rapping of Take It Back and an epic, extended You Need Me, I Don’t Need You, to the retro soul of Thinking Out Loud – a rare outing for his electric guitar.
Imminent O2 Arena dates show that he’ll never be lonely if he carries on like this. So wrong on paper, he’s doing something very right.