Concerts are one of my favorite places to be; the music, the atmosphere, and just the presence of a talented musician all fill me up with a kind of exciting sense of fulfillment.
Last night, I went to a performance of Ed Sheeran’s X (Multiply) Tour, my first concert of the summer, with my concert buddy/suite mate from college. Back when I first saw Ed in 2012 for his + Tour, he wasn’t widely popular (besides his singles “A Team” and “Lego House”). But once I saw him open for Taylor Swift on her Red Tour, I knew that he was no longer a unique facet of my friends’ and my musical tastes, but now a musician who belonged to the public–media, fans, and all. Since then, he created his amazing second album, X, which includes a few songs you’ve probably heard on the radio: “Sing,” “Don’t,” and “Thinking Out Loud.” He’s one of the most talented musicians in the business today, and his performances never fail to knock my socks off.
His setlist was spot on; he played all of the most popular songs on X (but I wish he would have played “One”), threw in a few of the most memorable tracks from +, and fulfilled his role as, what I like to call him, the King of Covers. He has this remarkable ability to pick the most unexpected covers that fit in seamlessly with his songs; he whipped out tunes like Stevie Wonder’s funky, “Superstition,” Blackstreet’s R&B staple, “No Diggity,” Iggy Azalea’s breakout song, “Fancy,” and classics, “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Feeling Good.”
And Ed sure knows how to control a crowd. He got everyone clapping in unison and singing during his more upbeat songs (He always makes it a point not to be afraid of looking stupid at his concerts.) and holding their shining phones up in the air and swaying during the slower ones. During his last song before the encore, one of my favorites called “Give Me Love,” he got the entire crowd singing in harmony while he sang and played guitar over us. It was one of those magical moments that happen when music is made live.
While he’s performing, it’s hard not to simply stare in awe at Ed Sheeran’s raw talent. You can see how hard he’s worked to get where he is in his one-man shows; he has incredible vocal range and control, he plays guitar harder than I’ve ever seen anyone before, his raps are clever and slick, and he layers his voice, beats, and strums like a cake with the help of his loop pedal. He’s got everything you could want in a live performance: charisma, stamina, originality, and unadulterated talent. Even if you aren’t familiar with Ed’s mix of singer/songwriter, R&B, folk, and pop, I highly recommend going to one of his concerts just to witness what it truly is– someone doing what they are meant to do.
Something I found last night (as I usually do at concerts) is that going to a concert really is a test of presence. You could see all levels of presence in the audience; some were filming entire songs on their phones, some were simply nodding along to the music, while others were singing their hearts out or dancing with their friends. And I find whenever I’m in that kind of setting, I don’t fail the test, but I don’t ace it either; there are moments when I’m truly present, and there are moments when I JUST NEED A GOOD PICTURE DANGIT.
At the concert last night, I tried to really be there. I took snippets of video and a few photos (as you can see), and instead of holding up my phone to record a whole song, I just started a voice recording and slipped my phone into my pocket. Still, I felt the constant pull between “I want to remember this forever so I need to document it!!” and “I need to watch this show through my eyes and not through my phone screen!!” I’m not sure if I’ve found the balance yet, but I’m working on it.
Certainly the most present I felt during the concert was while Ed was playing my favorite song on X, “Photograph.” The lyrics are poignant and honest, and the steady rhythm is comforting like a heartbeat. I was far back on the lawn of the venue, and the sun had just set, so above me was an enormous dome of open sky with clouds that were a kind of reddish-pink that I don’t have the proper vocabulary to describe. Hearing the words of the song (that I think I cried listening to for the first time if I remember correctly), “I won’t ever let you go / Wait for me to come home,” filled me with something– youth, joy, oneness with the universe, I don’t know. I felt God there, I felt me there, and I felt everyone there. Deep enough for ya?
Have any of you had similar experiences at a concert or elsewhere? How have you tried to find the balance between personal presence and memory preservation? Are any of you Ed Sheeran fans (i.e. Sheerios)? Let me know in the comments!
Also, thanks so much to everyone who’s been reading my blog and giving me nice comments here and on various forms of social media! It’s awesome to have so much support when trying something new!