Ed Sheeran, The O2, Tuesday, May 2
You wouldn’t know it from listening to the radio, glancing at the charts or simply existing in 2017 Britain, but there are still some people out there who don’t like Ed Sheeran.
Chances are, the vast majority of those doubters haven’t seen him in person - because the Sheeran live experience is something to behold. One man, a guitar, a loop pedal, and a rapidly swelling collection of humongous hits combine to fill UK arenas several times over (five million people are said to have applied for tickets for this tour).
All of which brings us to night two of three (four if you count next month's additional date) at The O2, where Castle On The Hill kicks things off to an oddly static crowd, content to gawp in awe at their idol rather than participate. It's not until third track The A Team and the mass arm wave-a-thon of Bloodstream that the room truly becomes one.
No fewer than 10 tracks from the excellent ÷ receive an airing, with Dive and Perfect the obvious contenders to emerge as this album’s Thinking Out Loud. Schmaltzy ballad How Would You Feel (Paean), meanwhile, veers dangerously close to Chris De Burgh territory on record, but is energised on stage with a helping hand from guest pianist Ashton Miranda.
That 26-year-old Sheeran can find no space in the 17-song setlist for + standards Lego House and Drunk is a reminder of his astonishing progress since last conquering The O2 in 2014. Three years on - and only three albums in - he now holds a legitimate claim to being the biggest music star in the world.
Such is his popularity that this arena sojourn represents an underplay for next year’s stadium tour, which promises to be the biggest since Take That’s colossal Progress run of 2011. He returns to The O2 in June, days before headlining Glastonbury.
Inevitably, there will be backlash waiting somehere down the line (we’re British, it’s what we do), but this is an all-time great in the making. Where Sheeran is involved, not even the sky is the limit.