The going story on Ed Sheeran so far has been how he’s able to fill arenas and even Wembley Stadium with screaming teenage girls all by his lonely, lovelorn self. No band. No heavily used backup singers like his pal Taylor Swift. Just the bearded, balladic Brit, his acoustic guitar and a small science lab of vocal and instrument looping devices.
Performing at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday two nights after Swift ended her three-show run there, the 24-year-old singer/songwriter offered very little to change up the story line this time.
The one new twist in the Sheeran chronicles was the impressive turnout. A whopping 14,561 fans filled the arena to the roof on a school night, compared to about 9,000 who came to see him at Target Center last year. The difference this time was a bigger showing by Cities 97-tuned adult fans, who joined the legion of screaming teenage girls from before — his “Sheerios,” as they somehow like to be called.
Alas, the repeat customers mostly saw the same concert as last year. Sheeran’s one-man-band shtick is seriously starting to make him look like a one-trick pony.
The redheaded, red-flanneled song man opened with three rather straight-ahead, hard-strumming tunes that played well off his tousled-hair, disheveled image, starting with “I’m a Mess” and “Lego House” before the manic singalong “Drunk.”
Sheeran played up the lovable-loser persona all the more with a confession to the crowd early on about the downside of throwing his pants in the laundry that day. “I regret it, because they don’t fit anymore,” he said with a Richie Cunningham-like smirk. “I apologize if I suddenly split open.”
(Insert semi-perverted teen screams here.)
Wardrobe problems aside, though, Sheeran really has his act down pat. He masterfully pieced together layers of guitar parts, drum beats (banged on the guitar) and different vocal lines for the R&B-tinged “Take It Back.” Then came a loop-filled mash-up of his tender ballad “One” and the crescendoing “Photograph,” a dramatic high point of the set — but it probably would have been a lot more powerful with a band behind him.
The electronic looping got just plain silly deeper into the concert, as he got all pseudo be-boppy in “I See Fire” and then rapped out Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” — right up there with Celine Dion doing AC/DC as one of the squarest cover-song renditions of all time.
Even more hokey was the fact that Sheeran came armed with four giant, moving video screens that almost exclusively showed images of (you guessed it) Ed Sheeran. He’s cute and everything, but he literally was the only thing to look at all night long.
Ed’s charm came through loud and clear in the end, though, namely when he returned to more quiet and less loopy fan faves such as “Thinking Out Loud” and “A Team.” A duet with opener Chrstina Perri, “Be My Forever,” also provided a sweet, fun break from the norm.
Perri proved equally likable and much more versatile in her own set. Akin to Sheeran talking about his too-tight pants, the Pennsylvania-bred pop-rocker introduced her big hit “Jar of Hearts” by confessing she wrote it in her pajamas. She was anything but cutesy about other stirring tunes, though, including the Coldplay-like “Arms” and convincingly rocky “Run,” each showing impressive vocal range and — go figure — helped along greatly by her sturdy backing band.
Here is Sheeran’s set list from Tuesday night:
I’m a Mess / Lego House / Drunk / Take It Back, with snippets of Superstitious (Stevie Wonder) and Bill Ain’t No Sunshine (Bill Withers) / One / Photograph / Bloodstream / Tenerife Sea / Don’t, with snippet of No Diggity (Blackstreet) / I See Fire / Be My Forever (with Christina Perri) / The Man / Thinking Out Loud / Made to Love Her / The A Team ENCORE: You Need Me / Sing