Pop star Ed Sheeran thrills his fans and converts at least one doubter at Sun

Singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran performs on Friday, July 14, 2017, at Mohegan Sun during the North American leg of his 'Divide' Tour.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran performs on Friday, July 14, 2017, at Mohegan Sun during the North American leg of his "Divide" Tour. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

Mohegan — Pop superstar Ed Sheeran’s full range of talent was on display at his sold-out concert Friday night in the Mohegan Sun Arena, where with effortless precision he mesmerized an adoring audience with his every move.

His ability to do that isn’t without reason, though — the guy’s seriously got talent — a talent that isn’t immediately apparent just by listening to him over the radio.

For years, I’ve been convinced Sheeran wasn’t all that remarkable; his lyrics tended to remind me of those sappy talk-show/song request sessions with Delilah, at best. And, combined with my assumption that his music was only pre-fabricated formula-pop, I’d pretty much written Sheeran off without a second thought.

But this show certainly proved otherwise. Once Sheeran came booming out onto the stage with the heart thumping reverie of “Castle on the Hill,” I immediately knew that I had been mistaken. Suddenly, I understood his heretofore confounding commercial success over the last four years and it left me — yes, I’ll freely admit it — an Ed convert.

A Sheeran concert is a solo exercise. There’s no backing band; he creates every bass line, melody, crescendo and beat drop there on the spot with just his guitar and looping pedals — and how he does so was, in all honesty, the highlight of the show. The idea of pre-recorded music is non-existent in Sheeran’s world.

Watching him build the rolling bass line to “Don’t/New Man” by slamming on the side of his guitar and adding-in, layer by layer, each additional part of the song was fascinating. And he hit those vocal high notes with ease — all the while singing in perfect tune and rapping along the way.

Any concern I might have had over his seemingly banal depictions of love and heartbreak, which comprise most of his lyrical context, melted right away.

Top that with close-ups of his unexpectedly endearing smile over the LED screens behind him, and it became even more clear that Sheeran has an electrifying stage presence — albeit unconventional. Somehow, his down-to-earth style and boyish mannerisms, which were quirky, awkward and adorable, were irresistible.

He certainly had the audience enthralled the whole way, and their energy was infectious throughout a perfectly curated 17-song set that breezed through his biggest radio hits and a scattering of recent releases off his newest album “÷” (pronounced divide).

Throughout songs such as “Photograph” and “Dive,” Sheeran’s ability to pull at the heartstrings was apparent as couples embraced in slow-dance style. There was even a proposal, made during his performance of “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here,” which Sheeran duly noted from the stage.

His ability to take an audience, fixed into the entrancing groove of “Bloodstream,” and move them on to the emotion-panged “Happier” — without any hang-ups while plucking at those first-love memories you thought you had buried deep inside — was also impressive. And despite multiple generations in the crowd, Sheeran was able to accurately tap into an adolescent feeling of living life freely through the Irish themed barnstormers of “Galway Girl” and “Nancy Mulligan.”

The crowd stayed on its feet from the start and followed his coaxing to sing along, wave their cellphones and arms around in unison, and jump with arena-shaking enthusiasm. “Lose your voice with me,” he told them in a charming British accent. “If you know the words, sing along; if you don’t, make them up as you go.” Comments like that kept fans smiling and, of course, screaming.

His show was so satisfying, it seemed he could have gotten away without playing his No. 1 hit “Shape of You.” But in response to the roar calling for an encore, Sheeran joyously beamed back onto the stage to perform the favorite, which left the hall in a frenzy. He ended the show with the jumping “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” while wildly shredding away at his guitar and rapping about his legitimacy as a musician, which seemed, at that point, fairly and happily obvious. 

Fans in the crowd react as singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran performs on Friday, July 14, 2017 at Mohegan Sun during the North American leg of his 'Divide' Tour.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Fans in the crowd react as singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran performs on Friday, July 14, 2017 at Mohegan Sun during the North American leg of his "Divide" Tour. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Ed Sheeran performs on Friday, July 14, 2017, at Mohegan Sun during the North American leg of his 'Divide' Tour.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Ed Sheeran performs on Friday, July 14, 2017, at Mohegan Sun during the North American leg of his "Divide" Tour. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Fans in the crowd wave their cellphones as singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran performs on Friday, July 14, 2017 at Mohegan Sun during the North American leg of his 'Divide' Tour.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Fans in the crowd wave their cellphones as singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran performs on Friday, July 14, 2017 at Mohegan Sun during the North American leg of his "Divide" Tour. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

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