Reading Festival 2011 – Ed Sheeran

Destined for the Main stage...

Its quarter to eight in the Festival Republic tent and Ed Sheeran is due on in twenty minutes. Already the stage manager has repeatedly asked the crowd to take a step back to deal with the over capacitated marquee. The seething crush of anticipation is a clear indication of how rapidly this 20-year-old has risen from humble up and coming star, selling CDs from his rucksack to playing in an overcrowded tent at Reading. The ‘We want Ed’ chanting begins along with thoughts that perhaps they should of put him on a bigger stage.

Sheeran walks on stage, beat-boxing into first number ‘Grade 8’, immediately establishing an intimate atmosphere. What you see is what you get; it’s refreshing to encounter someone going so back to basics, stripping down to raw, impassioned music. Ed points out that his whole set is live, using only loop pedal and guitar, plus his effortlessly powerful voice. Next up is ‘The City’ which sees the crowd ‘oh woah’ing along. Introducing his acapella cover of ‘Wayfaring Stranger’, he asks if the tent will replicate the gospel sound of the song as heard on his EP ‘One Take’, then achieved with his trusty loop pedal, They willingly and wailingly respond. It is surprising that anyone has any voice left to sing along seeing as it is the last night of the festival and there’s been plenty to scream about.

“Can I tell you guys a story?” he asks before going on to talk about how ‘The A-Team’ came about. “A year and a half ago a friend in Camden asked me if I could play at a crisis shelter for homeless people that opened a week over the Christmas period”. A homeless woman became his muse and, “I wrote a song about it” he explains before launching into the song that first pushed his name into the spotlight. There doesn’t seem to be a person in the room who doesn’t know the lyrics. Ed is then joined onstage by Mikill Pane, who collaborated on ‘Little Lady’. Sporting a leather jacket, peaked cap and sunglasses , he incites the crowd to sing louder as the duo embark on a mashup of both ‘Little Lady’ and ‘The A-Team’, fusing dextrous speed of sound rap with melodic chorus, resulting in audience participation at it’s most euphoric.

“This is going to be the last song, I promise to make it worth it,” grins Ed. “This song was recently number five in the UK singles chart, Five years ago I was told to never play this song live, that it would never be a single or a hit”. Although relishing the moment,Sheeran is obviously moved by the reception as the edgy guitar kicks in, bolstered by heavy bass. He treats the now-ecstatic tent to the EP version of ‘You Need Me’, complete with bites from 50 Cent’s ‘In Da Club’ and Laid Blak’s ‘Red’, adding new freestyled verse, before initiating a call and response sing a long. Splitting the tent in two, he challenges each side to shout the loudest. smoothly shhhing the crowd beat box style, knowing he has them in the palm of his hand. A triumph, which has to put him high in the running for the main stage next year: at this or any other festival.

Words by Abitha Pallet

View a full photo gallery from the Reading Festival 2011 HERE.

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