Ed Sheeran Brings His One-Man Band to L.A.'s Staples Center: Concert Review

Ed Sheeran, Billboard 2014.
Paul R. Giunta/Getty Images

Ed Sheeran performs onstage at Staples Center on August 27, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  

Can one man with no band, no backup singers, no dancers, and no stage-mates whatsoever entertain a crowd of nearly 20,000? That question was answered Wednesday night at L.A.'s Staples Center when Ed Sheeran hit the stage with just a guitar and a loop pedal, and the answer was a 20,000-fan-strong scream of "yes."

"My name is Ed," he told a crowd that definitely already knew that. "I'm here to entertain you, and you're here to be entertained."

Sheeran, low-key in red plaid flannel and black jeans, lived up to his end of that bargain during the 17-song set, filling up the arena with his one-man-band stylings. He had a lot of tricks up his sleeve to add depth to his stripped-down songs, like layering his own vocal harmonies, adding percussion by banging on his guitar, and (the easiest part) getting the crowd to sing along. But his best trick of all was his powerful voice. Even on songs where he gave the loop pedal a rest -- like on "Lego House" and "The A Team," his quieter hits from debut album + -- his vocals reached all the way to the rafters.

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When he wanted a little bit of extra vocal help, Sheeran enlisted the crowd. On the show-ending "Sing" -- the first single from his latest album, x -- he asked fans to keep the song going even after he'd left the stage for good. But he also knew how to quiet the crowd down when he wanted, as he did on encore song "Give Me Love" and on "Afire Love," siccing other audience members on unruly fans who dare make a peep during the emotional track written about his late grandpa's battle with Alzheimer's. Sheeran offered this advice for keeping seatmates hushed: "Stroke them, cuddle them, whisper to them: 'Ginger man's trying to sing.'"

Sheeran kept even his die-hard fans on their toes by tucking multiple pop-music references into his songs, like adding lyrics from Blackstreet's "No Diggity" and the cleaned-up phrase "these girls ain't loyal" to current single "Don't." Then there was a taste of Backstreet Boys' "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" tucked into "Runaway," and some "Layla" chords for good measure in the marathon rap song "You Need Me, I Don't Need You." Sheeran has to be the first artist to reference songs from Eric Clapton, Chris Brown and a boy band in one night.

For his final trick, Sheeran introduced a cover of Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars" as "a song I wish I'd written." Fans were excited enough about the new addition to his set list, but they really lost it when Snow Patrol lead singer Gary Lightbody joined Sheeran on stage to sing the song as a duet. (Yes, the kids positively lost it over the Snow Patrol guy.)

Lightbody was the first human being -- outside a guitar tech -- to join Sheeran on stage all night, and while we're sure Ed enjoyed the company, he could have done the whole thing alone. He had the crowd wrapped around his finger, and the booming sound to pack an arena with just an acoustic guitar and his voice.

Set list:

"I'm a Mess"
"Lego House"
"Take It Back"
"Tenerife Sea"
"Afire Love"
"Thinking Out Loud"
"Give Me Love"
"I See Fire"

"You Need Me, I Don't Need You"
"The A Team"
"Chasing Cars" (with Gary Lightbody)