This past weekend, I had the pleasure of witnessing Ed Sheeran perform live at a large, outdoor concert venue. Though his performance, in my eyes, may be characterized as a flawless spiritual experience, I couldn’t help but notice the actions of those who didn’t hold Ed in such high regard. I witnessed many cringeworthy events that night, ranging from concert goers sitting down after the second song, to people leaving the venue altogether at the first sign of rain.
Now, I’m not usually one to judge at concerts, in fact, I’m usually the one being judged (adorning Harry Styles temporary tattoos to a One Direction concert somehow isn’t considered “normal” for an eighteen year old). However, I do question people when they decide to sit at a concert, assuring that their view of an award-winning talent will be completely obstructed.
The Ed Sheeran concert was no exception to this sitting syndrome. As early as Ed’s second song, people began sitting down in their chairs. I looked around, perplexed, wondering why this was, until the seated woman behind me gave me an answer. “I can’t see anyway,” she complained to her friend.
This woman’s comment enlightened me, as I soon realized the reason for sitting syndrome, at least in Ed’s case: his gigs are simply designed for small, intimate venues where the entire audience can view him and his mastery.
Now, this is not to say that Ed cannot succeed “sweating on the stage of a sold out tour” as he states on his newest album. He has proven to be one of the most prominent lyricists and vocalists in pop music today, and the demand for his live performances reflects this. However, it still may be argued that Ed and his performance style feel most at home on a smaller scale.
This, it seems is one of the prices of fame: lost connection. If Ed Sheeran, lyrical genius and master of connection through serenation (Thinking Out Loud, anyone?) can cause audience members to sit down because it “isn’t worth it” to stand, there must be a problem.
The issue of lost connection with large audiences arises especially in cases such as Ed’s, where the gig doesn’t incorporate a spectacle of backup dancers and special effects, but instead is merely a man, a guitar, and a loop pedal.
To fully respect the ingenuity of Ed Sheeran, one must witness him up close. It is for this reason that appreciation of his mastery diminishes as his crowds grow larger, and the personal connection is lost.
Four years ago, I was lucky enough to see Ed perform in an intimate venue, The House of Blues. There, I was five feet away from him, not hundreds of feet away as I was at last weekend’s concert. And, at a concert like Ed’s, distance definitely matters.
At the House of Blues, every audience member had a clear view of Ed; connection was facilitated this way. Not to mention that in my section, general admission, people were not given the choice to sit down, which made for an engaged audience. The venue was so personal and small that when Ed shushed the audience, each member heard, and responded with utter silence.
The other component of Ed’s gigs that make viewing him so important is his usage of a loop pedal, which records a musical passage that is then repeatedly played back on a loop. Combining sound sections using his voice and guitar, Ed effectively produces beats on this machine. What is most unique and astounding is the process, usually lasting five minutes, that Ed goes through to produce these beats on the loop pedal--blending numerous sound sections that eventually produce a smooth, harmonic rhythm.
Consequently, a certain rawness is lost when audience members aren’t close enough to view this loop pedal process. I remember being amazed at the House of Blues, entranced by the Ed’s perfection of this tool, yet at last weekend’s large venue, I couldn’t view the loop pedal, thus a certain connection was lost.
Though I’m aware it is wishful thinking to hope that Ed returns to smaller, more intimate values, I cannot help but think that these venues would restore a greater connection between him and his audience members, as well as provide for a atmosphere more tailored to his raw style.