Review: Whether it’s the Railway Inn or the big arena, Ed Sheeran’s still a class act

Ed Sheeran at the First Direct Arena, Leeds.

Ed Sheeran at the First Direct Arena, Leeds. - Credit: Archant

Singer Ed Sheeran has enjoyed a remarkable rise from the Suffolk pub circuit to a headline arena tour. Callum Maclean went to see him at the First Direct Arena in Leeds on Saturday – five years after paying 50p to see him at the Railway Inn in Framlingham

Leeds is a long way from Suffolk.

But as Ed Sheeran started the English dates as part of his mammoth world tour there were still some things that remained the same since the last time I saw him perform.

The First Direct Arena was packed – a sell out in fact. Ed’s last UK tour was in 2012.

He said it felt “like an age” since he’d last toured in the UK, and added that it was good to be back.


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The only other dates in the UK he had played were three ‘secret gigs’ in one day earlier this year, including one at the Steamboat Tavern, in Ipswich.

I last saw the now world-famous Ed about five years ago, and it was packed then, although whether it was a sell-out or not would be disputed as it was in the back of the Railway Inn, Framlingham.

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I think I paid 50p that night, and it was for charity. There was only the landlady on the door that night.

The pub was rammed for the gig, which only consisted of a few songs, and there were certainly no touts with their famous saying “buying or selling”.

There was plenty of security on hand this time, donned in yellow and looking after everything from the doors an ticket processing to making sure every parking space was filled in the multi-storey car park a few metres away from the arena.

The performance in the Railway was exciting, as the singer-songwriter, performing in the corner, ended up on the table. I’m sure there may have been a minor crowdsurf too.

This time, supported by Saint Raymond, who wouldn’t look out of place on the festival circuit next year, Ed was still on his own, but instead of the back room of a pub, he had the whole arena completely focused on him.

During his set, in which he said his job was to entertain for the duration, he had the crowd screaming throughout. He controlled the crowd, getting them to join in with singing along, being quiet, and even the words of Blackstreet’s No Diggity, which he incorporated into one of his songs.

He rattled off hits from his latest album X (pronounced multiply) and his previous album + (pronounced plus) including Lego House, Drunk and Give Me Love.

For Give Me Love, he gently let down fans by saying he wouldn’t be dancing like he did in the video that he recently released.

However, as he sang it, the amount of light emitting from mobile phones being waved around was probably enough to power a small town. When he came back a couple of minutes later to play his encore, everybody in the place was up on their feet to listen to his three biggest hits - You Need Me I Don’ t Need You, The A-Team and Sing.

Even people in the seated section were up on their feet – it was almost like being thrown back to the crammed chaos in the back of the Railway.

And despite his meterorice rise to super stardom, his performance was still similar to the ones in pubs a few years ago – and that’s no bad thing.

It’s safe to say he did his job – and entertained.

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