Live Review: Ed Sheeran is a one-man wonder with a wealth of hits at Divide Tour Bangkok

[usr 4]

I got my copy of Ed Sheeran’s + the week it came out in Thailand. At some point back then I wrote on Twitter that all I wanted to do was lie on a bed of grass, listen to the album and watch the clouds drift by.

Ay, there’s the rub. When you’ve been down with the guy since the days he was up and coming, the move from witty lyricism or the quiet aches of growing up to generic, made-for-weddings cheese and overused anecdotes cloaked in radio-ready melodies feels like a jab of betrayal.

Still, for every “old” fan his recent artistic choices have gone to alienate, Sheeran gains a thousand more. It’s all part of the rise to superstardom, the big dreaming busker’s master plan. Seeing how quickly the Asia tour sold out, I’d be crazy to say it isn’t working.

So last Thursday (Nov 16) at the Impact Arena, I sat back, stamped my feet and savoured what this Suffolk crackerjack had to offer on stage. After all, it’s one thing to get critical at home and quite another to remain unmoved when the artist you admire is in front of you, kindling a sea of flashlights as their bearers sing their heart out. Even if the words are, “Darling, just hold my hand/ Be my girl, I’ll be your man”.


Clad in a black T-shirt and dark blue jeans, Sheeran made his way to the stage at 9pm sharp and sprung from open road-pop rock to head-bobbing rap to starry-eyed ballads across the 17-song set like he had never fallen off that bike.

From the moment the first chord of “Castle On The Hill” was strummed, Sheeran marvelled with his manoeuvre of the guitar and loop station. One by one, he laid down layers of percussion, rhythm and backing vocals that go perfectly in sync. It’s a wonder to see the process that could break the song if the pedal was pressed half a second early executed so effortlessly.

Shame that none of this was seen on the ten LED screens Sheeran brought along. Is it better left to the imagination? Would putting it up there lure back the haters who accused him of miming? While there’s plenty of live session videos with a clear view of his looper and feet online, I doubt fans would rather see a bad CGI tree or random brushstrokes at his concert.


Changing between acoustic, electroacoustic and electric guitars after every song, Sheeran was the sole commander of the stage, safe for when stagehand PJ Smith joined him on the piano for “How Would You Feel (Paen)” (sans John Mayer’s guitar solo). The number, despite sounding a tad too much like Richard Clayderman’s hotel lobby music, won one of the loudest receptions of the night alongside “A Team”, “Happier”, “Perfect” and “Thinking Out Loud”.

More noteworthy live renditions include favourites from x: stretched out to twice its original length, “Bloodstream” proved Sheeran’s rockstar moment as he sang of substance abuse while pounding and shredding the new arrangement to a climax. Meanwhile, “Photograph” was built on layers of falsetto and harmony until the Nicholas Sparks-level love letter became a hauntingly beautiful gothic tale.


Being a one-man band, Sheeran didn’t cut back on a frontman’s crowd work. During the snarky mashup of “Don’t” and “New Man”, on top of serious verse-spitting and cheeky peach emojis on the screen (“He’s got […] his arsehole bleached”), the red-locked singer got everyone to clap along and sing back to him in different notes.

His humbled, everybloke attitude is why Sheeran is so loved. He spent a good part of in between song breaks noting how overwhelmed and thankful he was: “I know you think that, for me, playing a concert is normal and I see this every day. But honestly, coming to a country that I’ve never been to and seeing this amount of love really warms my heart. I come from a very small town in England and I didn’t even expect my music to get to the level it is, to be able to come here. I’m seeing everyone in the crowd and everyone’s smiling, enjoying and know the words. It blows my mind.”

Artists shouldn’t be obligated to banter or engage with any audience member specifically, especially when they’re playing for over 12,000 people. But leaving someone’s proposal to “Perfect” unaddressed is at best a missed opportunity. If he didn’t see it, and he did turn to the seated area where it happened, one wonders if he’s still not wearing contact lenses. Something tells me no.


The show led to a customary encore of upbeat dancehall-influenced “Shape Of You” and the second of two meagre picks from +, “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You”. The latter was truly the best saved for last. Sheeran rapped, grooved, beatboxed and coolly swapped guitar mid-song on the backdrop of the most impressive visuals and lighting of the night.

The finale is also a reminder to me, and those of us who revere “the + era”, that although Sheeran is now one of the biggest pop stars in the world, three best-selling albums in, he’d still end his shows with this major middle finger to record companies who exalt money over music, a song that never broke outside the UK but so rich in personal history, a song about being true to himself.

“I’m still a choir boy in a Fenchurch tee/ I’m still the same as a year go/ But more people hear me”.

I can take his word for it and stick around for a while.

For more concert coverage and reviews from AsiaLive356, click here.





Let me know what’s up!

Be up to date of the news and events from Asia Live 365