Ed Sheeran’s +–=÷× Tour in Wellington

Three shows at the Opera House. One massive concert at Sky Stadium. Similar set list, totally different vibe – and I was at both.

Working in events, you get to be involved in a lot of what goes on behind the scenes… which means you don’t always get to see what the fans do.

But we’re talking about Ed Sheeran: he loves Wellington, and he appears to have a strong sense of fairness: wanting as many fans as possible to access his shows. This was seen in the pricing of his shows, along with the anti-scalping processes.

So, given he was in Wellington for a couple of weeks ahead of his first stadium show on the Australian leg of his +–=÷× Tour (pron Mathematics Tour), he announced three intimate shows at the Opera House. And I was lucky enough to go along.

Our seats were front row of the circle, providing a great view of the stage. I missed most of the supporting act, Kaylee Bell, but we caught her last three songs which were great – she has a classic country style and a beautiful voice. It’s pretty cool that so many people have just discovered her talent, thanks to these shows.

“Thank you so much for coming out tonight,” Ed Sheeran said, walking on stage literally five seconds before the scheduled start time. “Basically, I haven’t played a show in about four and a bit months, and I’m a bit rusty. So today is the first show back – this is the warm up. If I mess up, I apologise. But here we go, let’s have fun.” Then he launched straight into Tides with the full backup of his band.

And we got at least one mistake. But that’s what we’re here for right? The mistakes show it’s all real – he’s human, he’s singing, he’s playing – not some pre-recorded track. And the moments where things weren’t perfect, Ed was upfront and joked with the crowd. Handled like the seasoned professional he is.

The Opera House show started with his five-piece rock band, before we got solo-Ed (and loop pedal) for about an hour. The band came back on and off, and at one point we were treated to an acapella performance of Afterglow. It started with Ed, his guitar, and the band (sans instruments) at the front of the stage, before the guitar was silenced, the microphones unused, and all we had were six voices and the amazing acoustics of the Opera House. Just incredible, and very special experience.

And while the Opera House was intimate, Sky Stadium was full stadium rock! This time Ed had both Kaylee Bell and Maisie Peters in support.

I was up on Level 4 when the sound check started. I had a moment of “that sounds like Ed’s voice” and then boom! Massive sound, shaking the windows, the ceiling… it was just a teaser of what the night held in store.

The stage set up for Sky Stadium was massive. This is the first time the stage was placed in the middle of the field, and being that the whole venue is a giant oval, it makes for the perfect space, with every seat facing towards centre. Not a single bad view!

Galway Girl and Lego House were the notable missing songs from the Opera House, and I was hoping/expecting we might hear the former at the stadium. Sure enough, during sound check I heard a few recognisable sections with the violin, although no vocals. Later we’d get confirmation Ed had not run through the song with the band… and given he’d not played it onstage for at least four months… forgot the lyrics.

The whole concert was high-energy, bright lights, big sounds… and yet somehow Ed managed to keep the chatty, down-to-earth connection with fans. His stage was like a rotating vinyl which had steps appear and disappear as he required them, with loop pedal options all over. There was a huge halo that could be lowered to cover the stage, or lifted high up to provide images relating to the tune on show. Huge screens in the shape of guitar picks floated above the crowd. Plus, there were flames and fireworks! Absolutely spectacular.

It was an absolutely incredible show, and likely heard over half of Wellington due to the still night and muggy heat. With a show like this, I’ve no idea how he’ll top it next time he tours.


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