Ed Sheeran @ O2 Academy Oxford – 02/10/11

I last saw Ed Sheeran perform at the O2 Academy, Oxford last year. Back then, he was supporting Example on his UK tour, so it is fantastic to see him headlining, just twelve months later.

The first supporting act was Irish hip hop group, Abandoman, who apparently are number nine on the top boy band list in Ireland (just after Jedward). Abandoman are an improvised hip hop comedy group who have recently performed at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The first rap they created was titled ‘What’s in your pocket?’ and the audience participated by holding up one random object from their pockets. Many boys and girls held up lighters and cigarettes, but tampons, deodorant and bras came out too, which was extremely entertaining for everyone.

Lester Clayton was the second supporting act; they are a visually mismatched band that creates lovely acoustic music with a hint of reggae added in, which brings out an element of individuality. The crowd however, had to make a huge adjustment, and going from a side-splitting Irish rapper to a part political activist band did prove quite difficult. I think that the line up for the two supportingacts was definitely ordered wrongly and it would have made alot more sense to have Lester Clayton playing first.

Thirty minutes was the time that we had to wait for Ed Sheeran to take to the stage following the previous act. Surging forward after Lester Clayton’s performance, the moment that we had all been waiting for had finally arrived. Sheeran began his set with ‘Grade 8’. Personally, I thought that this was a perfect song to open with – nothing too full on and something to ease the crowd in. ‘The City’, ‘U.N.I’, ‘Homeless’ and ‘Small Bump’ were closely followed.

He then took his set to a whole new level. Using his mic and a loop pedal, he was able to record the base of his a cappella and then record various beats and harmonies over the top. Ed covered Jamie Woons, ‘Wayfaring Stranger’. Halfway through the song, he stopped using the microphone and sung just using the power of his voice. I have never seen a song performed live that has had such an enormous impact on an audience. Everyone was silent and completely in awe of Ed Sheeran’s beautifully raw voice.

One song later and Sheeran performed a mismatch collaboration of Lil Kim’s ‘Lighters Up’ and Dr Dre’s ‘Next Episode’, something he announced that he had never tried before, which completely changed the atmosphere from the cover he sang prior.

After this performance, he stopped to tell the crowd the famous story behind his best selling hit, ‘A Team’. After the heart wrenching story, he proceeded to sing his most renowned and successful song with the help of the audience. Half way through, he stopped to bring on a surprise guest, “Right everyone”, were his exact words, “I would like to welcome to the stage, Cher Lloyd.” Half of the crowd stood with their jaws dropped in angry disbelief and the other half laughed nervously, but of course, Ed Sheeran was playing joker. Mikill Pane stepped onto the stage. Yet again, the audience went wild. Hands were frantically waving in the air and many a person attempted rapping alongside Mikill Pane to ‘Little Lady’.

The set ended with Ed Sheeran singing ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’. For many, this was a realisation that the show was coming to the end, so energy levels went through the roof. Ed included a new verse that he had recently put together which went down really well. Ed made sure the audience partook in the last song by splitting the crowd in two. One side were assigned to sing “my eyes are red, I’ve been burning” whilst the other side sang the chorus, “you need me, man, I don’t need you.” Both sides and Ed Sheeran were now singing in unison the closing song of the night and no one wanted it to end.