A scruffy young man with a grab-bag of agreeably shaggy tunes, Ed Sheeran is surely the least likely candidate ever for stadium rock stardom.
Star rating: ****
But he effortlessly conquered Croke Park on the second of two dates at the venue over the weekend, filling the vast stage with warmth and wit, and songs that, if often unremarkable on record, grew in stature when accompanied by 80,000 backing singers.
Guest appearances have become a feature of Sheeran shows and, in the run-up to the concerts, rumours abounded as to who had received a tap on the shoulder (everyone from Bono to Christy Moore was mooted).
In the event the Saturday cameo was from Glen Hansard and Kodaline (a band that already pitched in during the Friday gig).
They joined Sheeran on a Coldplay-ified version of ‘Auld Triangle’ — a sweet moment followed by Kodaline bassist Jason Boland proposing to his girlfriend (she said yes, to general relief).
Such stunts added a novelty factor that Sheeran assuredly did not require. Framed by slick, though in no way ground-breaking, audio visuals, he was at his best straightforwardly spinning tales of young adult woe and yearning on acoustic guitar.
“As we’re getting started you should know everything you hear tonight is live,” the Englishman said early on, explaining that the wall of sound he conjured was created with just guitar and looping pedals.
From these bare-boned ingredients the 24-year-old wove a squall of woebegone noise, squawking his heart out on ‘Lego House’ and ‘The A Team’, and demonstrating an uncannily groovy side tossing in fragments of ‘In Da Club ’, ‘No Diggity’ and Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Was Made To Love Her’.
A cynic will point out that, decades past, Sheeran’s slouching ordinariness might have disqualified him from the job of rock star and that, as generational spokesman, he is rather underwhelming set alongside, say, Kurt Cobain or Morrissey.
However, normal is the new rock and roll, and at Croke Park, Sheeran was hangdog master of all he surveyed.
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