21 March 2015

In a Sing state of mind

As early as five in the afternoon, people already came in droves at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena, chanting, “We want Ed! We want Ed!” They meant Ed Sheeran, the British singer-songwriter who broke into everyone’s music consciousness with hits like 'Lego House' and 'The A Team'. To those who still don’t know him, he’s the artist behind that song you keep hearing everywhere, that song you can’t get out of your head and will probably play on your wedding day — Darling I will / be loving you till / we’re 70. Sheeran brought his Multiply Tour to Manila on March 12 and a couple of hours before taking the stage, we had the chance to sit down with him for an interview.

X memories forever frozen still in digital photographs

“I was expecting a good gig, but I think this might be one of the bests in the tour just based on the reception I’ve got. Everyone is so excited and that makes me more excited,” Sheeran said when asked about his expectations of the show.

We were surprised that he was surprised by his level of popularity in the country, to which he replied, “On social media (you have an idea of your fan base), yes. You can see the amount of tweets that you get but you can never really tell until you step into a country and feel the electricity.”

His doubts must’ve been cleared now as the 16,000-seater arena was filled to the brim, and with how the audience behaved (or misbehaved — blocking aisles to get closer, for example), it felt like there were 30,000 people in the room — which Sheeran effortlessly commanded.

Those who watched the concert fondly speak of how the 24-year-old musician in jeans, polo, and messy hair only needed his voice, guitar, and loop station to rock the night away. Meanwhile, those who were able to meet him, talk non-stop about his kindness and humility.

How can one be a rock star on stage and a grounded human being off stage? (Sheeran once remarked that thank goodness he wasn’t selling albums based on his looks.) The answer, at least for Sheeran, is to separate the musician from the man. “The artist side of me is the one who is successful and the normal side of me is not. You have to separate the two,” he said.

Ed Sheeran is the third act featured in MMI Live’s British Invasion 2015 concert series. Before him, The 1975 and The Vamps performed in Manila in January and February respectively, and following him are One Direction on March 21 and 22, and Sam Smith in May.

What is it about British music that resonates so well with the rest of the world?

“I don’t think the invasion ever stopped,” offered Sheeran. “Because before us there was Adele, Coldplay and Mumford & Sons; and before them there was James Blunt, David Gray and Travis,” he continued. “There’ve always been British bands — Oasis, Blur — It’s the same for the Swedish, they’re good at songwriting. England, UK and Ireland just produce good artists.”

Lucky for us they’re now crossing continents so we can watch them perform live. Before we let Sheeran off, we asked which one of his songs best reflects his current state of mind. He paused to think, then said, 'Sing' — the upbeat tune he co-wrote with Pharrell Williams. “I’m having a wonderful time in the Philippines and I just, I feel…” he couldn’t find the words, so maybe he just really felt like singing and letting go. And that he did at the MOA Arena last Thursday.

Sheeran closed his first Manila concert with Sing. Towards the song’s end, he told the audience to sing the song’s hook, O-oh o-oh-oh o-oh-oh o-oh-oh oh-oh… and to “never stop singing” even as he put his guitar down and left the stage. The crowd obliged.

It was, to reiterate and to understate, a memorable night. And in case you’re reading this, we’re still singing, Ed.

—Originally published on GIST.PH

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