Ed Sheeran‘s highly-anticipated world tour arrived in Auckland on Friday night to a full house of eager fans who had ventured from around the country to catch a glimpse of the pop superstar.
Sheeran had been in Aotearoa for the last few weeks, enjoying the delights of a country he’s particularly fond of, and night one of his Auckland shows was utterly seamless – until it wasn’t.
The set up at Eden Park was unlike anything seen before, featuring a revolving central stage offering 360-degree views for fans, creating the perfect playground for Sheeran’s electric live performance.
A huge halo screen was ready to capture every moment of his live adventure along with six LED screens, shaped as guitar picks, suspended in the air ensuring every corner of the stadium got to see at least a bit of the music icon.
Ahead of his 32nd birthday, Sheeran started off strong. With record-perfect pitch, he appeared to be fully in the zone. Moving through his vast catalogue of songs quickly, he belted out favourites like “I’m a Mess” and “Shivers” while an acoustic version of “The A Team” saw a sea of bright lights create a starry night sky.
Before continuing, something should be noted about the concert: Sheeran’s fans have got to be among the best of any music artist. They stood aptly-spaced on Friday night, keen to get a good view but also happy to respect the person standing beside them. It was remarkable behaviour for an audience so big at a concert for an artist at this level.
It was also noticeable that there were people of all ages in at Eden Park, spanning across generations, including an older woman with her adult daughter and a fun mum with three adorable daughters, clinging to the gate like they were watching a spaceship take off.
Back to Sheeran. When he wasn’t prancing or standing on the motorised roundabout, he would stand still in the centre of the circular stage on a podium which lifted into the air. With no backing tracks, he moved between the use of his band and solo acoustics, explaining to the crowd that everything was entirely live. If only we knew then just how accurate that sentiment was to prove itself.
“Castle on a Hill” was undoubtedly a stand out offering a sentimental touch, the track reminiscing about Ed’s early life. He soon moved onto “Don’t” before remixing it in his classic way with “No Diggity”, encouraging crowd participation at any point he could.
Sheeran also shared the importance of coming to New Zealand to record “I See Fire” for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, revealing it’s one of the top three things that’s ever happened to him.
He tore through a medley of “Peru”, “Beautiful People” and “I Don’t Care” with unwavering enthusiasm before launching into “Overpass Graffiti”.
As he brought out multi-instrumentalist Tina to play “Galway Girl”, the crowd held its collective breath. In Wellington, Ed had enlisted the help of Pippa, aged just 10, to remember the words. He nailed it, though, and everyone relaxed.
He moved through several other classic hits before telling fans: “I don’t take this for granted.”
And then it happened. From the front of the stage, it became obvious that something was wrong when an unruly sound made its way through the speakers. Sheeran didn’t notice it right away, soldiering on, but it quickly became apparent something was seriously wrong and he was forced to stop.
Handling the interruption with the utmost grace, it was evident his only gripe was not being able to get back to it. “Auckland thank you so much for being patient, technical difficulties, let’s pretend it didn’t happen,” he said upon returning to the stage.
It was clear he was disappointed, but the audience were more than happy to wait the three minutes it took to sort it out; considering the impressive start, what’s a minor interval in an otherwise seamless showcase?
But when it happened again, the jarring distortion came hard over his usually delightful melodies. The crowd cheered, offering reassurance and encouragement but Sheeran was forced to disappear again.
When he came back – after it happened once more – he told fans that he’d be resorting to an acoustic set due to an issue with the loop pedal. But that was more than fine – fans still got to hear Sheeran’s voice and see him show off his skill on the guitar.
“We paid for the fireworks, so we’re going to use the fireworks,” he informed the crowd towards the end of his set. Bright colours then soared high into the crisp night sky as he thanked his fans before making his final departure.
While many may have taken the chance to take an early exit, Sheeran proved the show must go on.
Next week, Sheeran takes his spectacular world tour to Australia for a run of nine dates in February and March (more information here).