THE last time Ed Sheeran played a gig in this region, he was an up and coming artist on the verge of breaking into the mainstream.

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And last night, with two Brit Awards and a No. 1 album under his arm, the prodigal son returned home to a hero’s welcome from 8,000 fans at a very wet and muddy Thetford Forest.

As he stepped on stage to chants of ‘Ed, Ed, Ed’, Sheeran wasted little time in acknowledging his return. “It’s good to be home” he told the crowd, to wild cheers.

Rarely has a show in this area been so highly anticipated – tickets sold out in a matter of minutes, a record for the venue – and he did not disappoint.

Musically speaking, the Framlingham boy who once played more than 300 gigs in a year has become a man.

His appeal, in these days of pyrotechnics and razzle dazzle, lies in his simplicity.

There are no holograms, explosions or scantily-clad dancers with Ed.

Instead, it’s just him and his guitar alone on stage. It’s more than enough.

In his hands, the simple instrument and his voice – pitch perfect, by the way – seemed to fill the forest arena far better than a bigger and louder band ever could.

Thousands of fans singing along to every word helped, of course, and at times the gig took on a festival feel – apt given the fact that Latitude is just down the road this weekend, as Sheeran pointed out.

Of course, singing is not all Ed does – the 21-year-old can also turn his sickeningly talented hand to rapping and beatboxing with great aplomb, and he duly did so to a rapturous reception.

Highlights? Tough to pick from such a great show, but here goes.

You Need Me, I Don’t Need You has long been a favourite of mine and seeing Ed play that live for the first time – with the requisite freestyle rapping and beatboxing – was a genuine hairs on the back of the neck moment.

He performed it as a 15 minute encore at the end of the show, sending the crowd – soaked through by the constant rain – into a muddy frenzy of motion and noise.

To be fair, though, most of the show was like that. Spine-tingling renditions of hits like A-Team - his final song - Lego House and Drunk will all live long in the memories of those who were lucky enough to be there.

Welcome home, Ed. Next time, don’t leave it so long.

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