In the air swayed close to 10,000 hands with flashlights on. Clad in a bright blue kurta, singer Ed Sheeran came for a second live concert in India, after 2015, on Sunday, starting his performance with Castle on the Hill, as part of his Asia tour on album Divide. “I am pretty boring at concerts,” he said, inviting instant laughter from the audience. “But I am going to sing as many songs as I can and you sing as loud as you can.”
And so he did. In a 90-minute performance, Sheeran sang over 15 songs from his albums Divide, Multiply and Plus, sweating and drinking water after every few songs. The empty plastic bottles became the point of demand from the audience once the concert ended. “He seemed so honest and so involved in the songs,” said Swati Khandare, who came with her husband to watch the concert. The audience on Sunday drew instant comparisons between England-born Sheeran and Canadian singer Justin Bieber, who lip-synced in a concert in Navi Mumbai in May this year. Khandare, who attended Bieber’s concert, said, “Today’s performance was better than Justin Bieber’s. It is difficult not to compare both.” “Ed Sheeran was involved with the audience. We felt him connect with us. I attended Justin Bieber’s concert too. But there was no warmth,” said Pritika Bhansali, who attended the Sunday concert with her friend.
Sheeran sang some of his hits on Sunday — A Team, Bloodstream, Happier, Photograph, Sing, Galway Girl, The One, Perfect, Thinking Out Loud and several others from his last three albums. With every song, he switched his guitar that carried a plus, multiply and divide sign on it to hint at which album he will sing from next. The 26-year-old sang and played solo on his guitar for the entire concert except for once when he called pianist P J Smith onstage to play The One.
“I stopped playing piano once I took to guitar. He (Smith) was a carpenter when I met him. I heard him play the piano and I said ‘You play pretty well’,” Sheeran said as he introduced the pianist who now works with him.
A huge LED screen behind Sheeran magnified him for even ones in the far end on the Jio Garden grounds. “Though I feel there should have been screens for us to see him properly,” said Tanushree Chandavarker (24), who attended the concert with her friend. Chandavarker runs a start-up for IT services in Goa, and remembers sitting in front of her laptop at noon just before a business meeting to book tickets the day the booking for Sheeran’s concert opened. “I had made two more friends register and try to book tickets, just in case I didn’t make it. All three of us were sitting together refreshing the page. Thankfully, I got two tickets,” she said.
The 10,000 tickets got sold in less than 48 minutes, with thousands left in waiting. Sheeran ensured he made not only teenagers sway to his songs, but even adults join in. He cracked jokes on boyfriends and fathers who wouldn’t sway their hands in the air. In the final leg of his songs, Sheeran suddenly disappeared to only return in less than a minute in a blue jersey with India written on it. The singer and songwriter had between 60 and 100 tattoos on his body. The audience got a closer view on Sunday after he changed his long-sleeved kurta for a t-shirt that showed his tattooed hands. He sang Shape of You with thundering cheers from the audience before moving to his final song You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’.
Rhea Kothari (11), with her four school friends, was amongst the first to reach the concert when the gates opened. “She would have camped from Saturday night at Bandra Kurla Complex just to be right next to stage,” said her mother Toral Kothari. The 3-feet tall girl had to crane her neck to look over at the stage. “But I am a huge fan of Ed Sheeran,” she said as she sat on a mat she had brought from home. Before Mumbai, Sheeran visited Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok as part of the Asia tour.