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When he did the rounds of London’s pubs as an aspiring artiste looking to break into the music industry, Ed Sheeran, then 18, recalls walking in each time with a song that he supposed would “change my life”. ‘The big break’ that all artistes seek, wouldn’t be elusive, he was certain, after he cracked a number that he was sure would be “the one”. “I stepped in, played the song, and nobody cared,” summarises Ed, 33. But he played it again the next time, and then again, until “some people” paid heed to his work, and then some more. It’s the song that earned him a record deal, and subsequently opened doors for him across the world. Revealing this chapter of his life ahead of his rendition of A-Team—a folk ballad about a commercial sex worker addicted to a ‘class A’ drug, and one that went on to climb the charts in 2011 as the lead single of his debut album—the Brit singer compels us to consume the song we’ve heard umpteen times, with a hint of novelty. 

Stories unite individuals across the globe, and Ed surely knows how to tell his, masterfully. Be it in his interviews, or songwriting, his ability to articulate emotions has always tugged at people’s heartstrings. At his Mumbai concert on Saturday, he peppers his two-hour-30-minute set with many such memories that led to the making of his hit tracks, Dancing with my eyes closed, Thinking out loud, and Lego house. 

Ed welcomed Diljit for a rendition

As concert-goers would know, the ambience created by live performers is usually solitary—while the Backstreet Boys brought the party to Mumbai with their act last year, Westlife delivered a melodic nod to the ’90s with their lilting renditions. Ed, however, doesn’t stop at one. If he has the crowd grooving to Sing at one moment, he has them hum to Happier in the next. Soon after, he delivers a vibrant melody of his 2019 album, No 6 Collaborations Project. He encourages the lot to croon along to his less popular numbers (“if you don’t know the lyrics, make up your own”), and also chides them before belting out his chart-topper, Thinking out loud (“if you don’t know the lyrics to this one, you’re at the wrong concert”). So engrossing is his delivery that one can barely bring awareness to the precise moments when they stop singing along, only to draw their full attention to his arresting renditions.

At times, he has the audience partake in competition—having them warm-up their vocal chords with exercises, and then pitting one half of the crowd against the other. “This half is louder than that,” he jokes, subsequently training them to pull off the backing chorus, against which he goes on to render his songs. And when he’s done with this game of play, he quietly recedes to his mic to deliver yet another balladic number that brings the air to a standstill. 

Delivering these renditions appears meditative for Ed. His prowess as a performer is made evident in the fact that only a vigilant listener would be able to differentiate his live renditions from his studio-recorded numbers. And yet, at no point during his set does he lose sight of the fact that he is here to entertain. Having spent days in the company of Bollywood folk before his concert, Ed packs in many surprises for his desi fans. He brings the crowd to its feet when Gen-Z’s favourite aritste Armaan Malik joins him for a bit-sized rendition of 2Step (Armaan had previously collaborated with Ed to create an Indian version of the song), and, towards the close of his act, surprises them by welcoming Diljit Dosanjh on stage to render the latter’s popular Punjabi number, Lover. In a moment that’s fortunately been captured on several cameras, Diljit appears as puzzled as the audience when Ed belts out the Punjabi chorus of his track during the live act.  

The last leg of his Mathematics tour that was brought to India by BookMyShow was supported by animated visuals that did justice to his songs. “We plan to perform in more cities next year,” he promises.  

Stories unite individuals across the globe, and Ed surely knows how to tell his, masterfully. Be it in his interviews, or songwriting, his ability to articulate emotions has always tugged at people’s heartstrings

Having taken 55 minutes to navigate a distance that should have taken 10, we prepare ourselves to ‘face the music’ for turning up late to Ed Sheeran’s concert. Three kilometres away from the venue, we take a decision—the traffic has come to a halt for a while, the ETA is set at 43 minutes, and gates close in 30. We’re in the ‘comfy shoes’ that were part of the ‘Ed essentials’ mentioned on the ticket, we’ve skipped our morning run, and know that we could cover the distance on foot in 20. The move is a bit extreme, or so we think, before meeting concert-goers on the way, making the journey like devotees would while turning up to religious sites. How long have you been walking for, I ask a few. “45 minutes,” says one, who abandoned her car at the foot of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link to make it in time for her date with Ed. “30,” says another, “25,” say two more. As we get closer, this crowd grows larger. We can’t help but chuckle at the complaints of grumbling parents, and annoyed boyfriends. Welcome to Ed’s concert!



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