Ed Sheeran is such a massive star that he can get Ed Sheeran to open for him. Who else in the world can say the same?
When Khalid was involved in a car accident earlier in the week, the four-time Grammy winner was put in a difficult position during his most recent stop on the Mathematics Tour. With Khalid unable to perform at the FedEx Field show, in Landover, Maryland, Sheeran called an audible and filled in as his own opener.
That meant, before Sheeran could continue headlining his first North American Stadium Tour in nearly five years, the 32-year-old singer/songwriter had to first warm up his own crowd. So, he took to the stage in a plain, white t-shirt and black jogging pants for a stripped down 30-minute selection of tracks from his newest album, Subtract, which was released May 5.
“He is recovering, and we wish him the best,” Sheeran said of Khalid during his impromptu opening set. “I’m going to say this after every song because if people don’t know who was going to be the opening act today, people are going to be walking in like, ‘This show isn’t what I thought it was. I thought there would be more fireworks.'”
Once the opener finished his allotted time, there was a brief intermission before Sheeran was back on stage for his more standard headliner performance, which included the aforementioned fireworks, pyrotechnics and more during a beautifully captivating 25-song set that spanned nearly two hours.
The main event kicked off with “Tides,” the opening track from the 2021 album, Equals, which tells the story of how everything changed in Sheeran’s chaotic life after he became a dad. From there, the superstar temporarily traded in his acoustic guitar for an electric and tore into a rendition of “BLOW,” a high-energy collaboration with Chris Stapleton and Bruno Mars, that was accentuated by giant pillars of flames erupting from the floor as Sheeran raced around every inch of the stage.
After spending two weeks in a New York courtroom defending himself in a copyright dispute earlier this year, the British musician was clearly thrilled to be back on the road performing in front of his enormous fanbase, and they were equally (no pun intended) as thrilled to see him performing live once again.
During “I’m A Mess,” the Halifax, West Yorkshire native utilized his rotating circular stage to ensure every concertgoer in every corner of the stadium saw his smiling face. On this night at this show, there clearly wasn’t a bad seat in the house.
Sheeran took a brief moment to introduce his loop station, a device with pedals he uses during each performance to create what the audience hears at a given show. There are no backing tracks at an Ed Sheeran show — rather everything is created live, recorded on the fly and then eventually deleted. With that quick tutorial out of the way, the artist and the loop station dove into another popular track, “Shivers.”
Being back in town was special for Sheeran, who said it made him think back to the first time he played at the 9:30 Club back in 2012. That show was a sentimental favorite of his, so much so that he reached out to the iconic establishment earlier this week hoping to swing through for a last-minute pop-up show. Alas, the venue was unavailable, so the nation’s capital had to settle for just the two helpings of Sheeran on this night.
Other highlights from the evening included:
A third of the way through the set Sheeran performed “Eyes Closed,” a touching tribute to his friend Jamal Edwards, who died suddenly from a heart attack last year, followed by “Give Me Love,” which concluded with the entire stadium singing along a cappella style. He then performed “Visiting Hours” for the first time on the current North American tour.
“End Of Youth” featured ample pyrotechnics and flames in an impressive and beautiful display. A classically trained violinist by the name of Alicia Enstrom accompanied Sheeran on stage for “Galway Girl,” which was very clearly a crowd favorite.
Up next was the “sing-along portion of the evening,” which Sheeran jokingly summarized by saying, “The songs coming up are the ones your grandmother knows.” The man’s music has been streamed more than 40 billion times, so yes, it’s a safe bet granny knows the words to “Thinking Out Loud” and a few more of his smash hits.
Sheeran took to the stage for a third and final act — this time rocking a customized Washington Commanders jersey — as he played “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” “Shape of You” and “Bad Habits” to the delight of the euphoric masses. The final few notes of “Bad Habits” were punctuated with a firework display so grand that it could be seen blocks away from FedEx Field. As the clock approached midnight and tens of thousands of fans headed for the exits, more than a few people made the case that they had just witnessed the best concert the venue has ever hosted. After all, two Ed Sheeran shows for the price of one is a deal that’s difficult to beat.