If Ed Sheeran had his way, he'd still be performing for crowds no bigger than 500. But considering he's topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six of the last eight weeks with his hit "Shape of You" and he's projected to have the biggest Billboard 200 debut of 2017 yet with his new album Divide (styled ÷), the days of intimate settings are behind him -- that is, until Sirius XM hosted a secret Sheeran show in New York City.
Four hundred lucky fans got the opportunity to see the British singer-songwriter back in the setting where his career began on Monday night (March 6), in the intimate Studio at Webster Hall as part of Sirius XM's "Secret Show" series. Even after all of the success Sheeran has seen with "Shape of You" and Divide, he seemed just about the happiest he has yet since his return to music in January.
"This is really enjoyable, I haven't done a show like this in a long time," Sheeran told the crowd with a smile. "It's really nice to get back to the roots a little bit."
After opening with "Castle on the Hill," Sheeran surprised fans who were expecting to hear solely Divide tracks with the song that started it all for him, "The A Team." In line with the throwback song, Sheeran let the crowd know that even with all of the milestones he's reached in the years since "The A Team," he hasn't forgotten the days when he played tiny venues by naming the exact date and place of his first New York show: Mercury Lounge, January 30, 2012 -- furthering the humility he displays in his performances.
Sheeran continued his loop pedal mastery with "Don't," he unexpectedly began rapping the lyrics to the flippant Divide track "New Man," which worked seamlessly with the edgy guitar featured in "Don't."
Donning a white t-shirt and dark jeans, Sheeran kept his look as simple as his him-and-a-guitar performance. At one point, though, Ed wanted to take the simplicity of the stage setup one step further. Hardly 30 seconds into his x track "I'm A Mess," Sheeran ripped the cord from his acoustic guitar and announced, "You know what? I'm not feeling the sound of the stage. Let's get a chair, put it in the middle of the crowd, and I'll sing there. Sound good?"
Of course, Sheeran's up-close-and-personal request had fans in a frenzy, but he made sure to declare that the stripped-down part of the show wasn't going to work unless the audience stayed quiet. The loyal Sheerios didn't take Sheeran's request lightly, either -- once he perched atop a chair in the middle of the crowd, you could almost hear a pin drop.
He started over with "I'm A Mess," looking much more in his element as he strummed his guitar. As if fans weren't already enthralled with his rather mind-blowing move, Sheeran then delivered two new tracks: the sweet, yet somber "Supermarket Flowers" and the (completely opposite) rap-filled "Eraser." He had only planned on playing three songs during the impromptu acoustic session, but he was enjoying himself so much that he decided to add one more in. He then began crooning his swoon-worthy "Perfect," which he declared was not only the first song finished for Divide, but also his favorite.
Upon returning to the stage, Sheeran used his loop pedal to begin the instrumentals for "I See Fire," but brought another mash-up to the mix with a rendition of "Feeling Good" before going into the real track. He continued the crooning with "Thinking Out Loud" before announcing that he was going to add yet another song to the set.
Inevitably, the biggest sing-along of the night occurred during "Shape of You," but Sheeran turned his final song into one as well. Following a spiel about how we should all love one another, Sheeran closed with "What Do I Know?," instructing fans to hum-along to the ones featured in the bouncy tune -- conducting the hums as he made his way off stage.
Sheeran has always kind of made his own rules when it comes to being a pop artist, and that's exactly what he did during his secret show. He was adamant that the acoustic, in-the-crowd portion was completely unplanned (and apologized because he forgot the show was being recorded for Sirius), and that he had an official set list which he completely derailed. And instead of having some grand finish or even an encore, he let the crowd do the closing honors. But none of these things were done out of spite or rebellion -- rather, they happened because Sheeran was simply having a great time, doing what he does best.
Sheeran secret show set list
Castle on the Hill
I'm A Mess
Feeling Good/I See Fire
Thinking Out Loud
Shape of You
What Do I Know?