Ed Sheeran speaks for England. “I find this country of mine gets a bad reputation,” sings the singer-songwriter tonight on stage at the Royal Albert Hall, “of being cold and grey.” Looking for a new England, Sheeran’s newfound national elegies put him in a lineage of songwriters that includes Ray Davies and Billy Bragg.
Where performing an album in full is generally reserved for settled career-best classics or the rollout of bold new statements, Autumn Variations – performed tonight with a six-piece string section – isn’t even the best Ed Sheeran album this year. “If you haven’t listened to Autumn Variations,” says Sheeran tonight, “this is probably going to be a long hour for you.”
Compared with Sheeran’s usual stadium performances, tonight can feel as intimate as the club shows where he cut his teeth. “When I travel around the world,” says the singer during one reflection on British drinking culture, “people find the concept of a pint weird.” This introduces Plastic Bag, with Sheeran’s signature sing-rapping returning to the subject matter of The A Team – a hit from way back When David Cameron was first in government – with lyrics that seem to reflect the singer’s own experiences with drugs and alcohol.
In Britain’s most prestigious venue, though, Sheeran’s national vision is vague and deliriously unspecific. The song England, which Sheeran says tonight was written about Kent, paints a postcard idyll of quaint old lighthouses and pubs “working flexible hours”. Given the singer’s broad-brush stereotyping of Ireland on the 2017 song Galway Girl, we are at least lucky to be spared his homilies to queueing or Big Ben. Tonight, the album’s weaknesses are the show’s weaknesses. The string section, which Sheeran jokes is an upgrade from his usual loop pedal, are only really given the brief falsetto sketch of album track Blue to assert themselves.
During the second set, a friendly but patient audience response gives way to the palpable rush of delayed gratification. Hits such as a muscular Shape of You or Thinking Out Loud – received in a hall twinkling with phone lights as something of a secular hymn – arrive. A closing version of the Celtic traditional The Parting Glass – which the singer begins a cappella – rises to the occasion of Sheeran’s first headline show at the Royal Albert Hall. But tonight, only a generous and warming dessert serving of favourites saves a seasonal dish with the unmistakable aftertaste of the vanity project.
Diğer gönderilerimize göz at