Review of Ed Sheeran's Mathematics tour breaks records on first night at Sunderland's Stadium of Light
and live on Freeview channel 276
His last tour, the mammoth Divide, ended up being one of the biggest of all time and the man with a Midas touch in catchy music has returned to the touring circuit with a show that ramps up the staging.
Instead of appearing at one end of the stadium, the very back seats squinting for a view of the star, Ed performed in a round in the centre of the venue, encircled by huge curved screens, a more fair way of giving everyone a good view of the spectacle, no matter what their seat number.
Huge screens shaped like plectrums also hover over the sea of Sheeran fans in this no expenses-spared staging.
It means everyone can be part of the orbit around Ed and his famous loop station. He has four at his feet in the round which he uses to create a rich, layered aural experience, with tracks like Shivers and Overpass Graffiti drenching the crowd in sound.
And, always one for numbers, it also allows for more seating making Ed’s the most-attended gig at the stadium so far with 60,000 gig-goers through the doors, smashing Rihanna’s record set almost 10 years ago with a crowd of 57,500.
Unlike previous performers at the home of the Black Cats, Ed’s shows aren’t a whirlwind of costume changes, a la Spice Girls, or the aerial acrobatics of Pink. Instead, the music is the star of the show, with Ed packing a more impressive back catalogue than most.
"My job is to play as many songs as you recognise as possible,” he tells the crowd in his affable manner. “It’s a Friday night and I know the North East can get rowdy – I want you to be as rowdy as possible.” You’ve got to hand it to the fella: his upbeat energy and love of his craft is infectious and you can’t help but sing along.
The 31-year-old is somewhat of a hit machine and you’d have to be living under a rock not to know the verse to at least one of his tracks – whether it’s to your personal taste or not.
As well as spanning genres, from folk to pop, his music spans the ages from kids in deeley boppers jigging away to Castle On The Hill and 2Step to couples slow dancing on the pitch to A Team and Shape of You.
It's the kind of music which really strikes a chord, pardon the pun, with his ardent fan base, many of whom, complete with Ed arm tattoos, were queuing early doors at the stadium to secure a good standing spot.
He’s joined in the round by a band for collaboration tracks, which don’t work on the loop station, big hitters like Peru, Beautiful People and I Don’t Care.
For Galway Girl, the stadium was transformed into an orange and green Irish jig as he was joined on stage by a fiddle player.
As the sun set over Sunderland, it was great to see this calibre of production and pyrotechnics back at the stadium, three years after the Spice Girls stormed the stage. A round of applause too for the millions it ploughs into the local economy in bar, restaurant and hotel bookings, with the city really buzzing over the Bank Holiday.
Ed returns to the stage on Saturday, June 4 for round 2. If you’re heading there looking for a night of singalong hits and great showmanship then Ed’s got your number.
There was fireworks, there was flames, there was Mexican waves and a bit of live music magic. Double maths has never been so much fun.