Review: Ed Sheeran
It was back in 2008 that a 17-year-old Suffolk singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran won the fifth Next Big Thing, the musical showcase co-founded by the Evening News.
Well, if the evidence of his record-breaking three-gig stint at the Waterfront in King Street, Norwich, is anything to go by the 'next big thing' is exactly what he is.
From the very first chord he had the packed audience in the palm of his hand - and he didn't let them go until the final singalong chorus had faded away.
Ed, now 20, is riding high after the huge success of debut big-label single The A-Team, and seeing him in action you get the unerring notion that this is only the start.
When he entered that 2008 contest, Ed was already something of a veteran, and he has honed his songwriting craft over a series of self-released albums and EPs. Oh, and the gigs. Hundreds and hundreds of gigs. All of which has given him the sort of stagecraft that you might expect from a much older artist.
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His Waterfront gigs were the first with his new band, which added a slick and powerful back-up to Ed's expressive vocals. And talking of those vocals, it was a stunning a capella version of Jamie Woon's Wayfaring Stranger (as seen on Later With Jools Holland), performed with beatboxed loops and backing vocals, which for me really showcased his talents.
All the new material went down well, including Kiss Me - which bodes well for his debut album on Atlantic, '+', out in a couple of months.
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The highlight of the gig, though, was always going to be his version of The A-Team, its catchiness not disguising powerful lyrics about a heroin-addicted prostitute, showing Ed has depth as a writer as well as a knack for a singalong chorus.
In the build-up to Ed's appearance, there was good support from the likeable Leddra Chapman, no slouch herself in the catchy tunes or witty lyric department, and the versatile and powerfully-voiced singer-songwriter Antonio Lulic.
But this was Ed's night. Or rather, nights. All three Waterfront gigs were immediate sell-outs, as is a return visit to UEA in the autumn. At home on stage on at a festival (as lucky Latitude-goers will no doubt discover this weekend) he had the audience divided into the 'Reds' and the 'Blues' for impromptu singalongs, the glow of mobile phones waving in the air. 'Ed, Ed, Ed!' they chanted.
Wake up world, Ed Sheeran has arrived.