For his mostly acoustic ballads, Ed Sheeran sure is loud onstage. With a permanent smile and a goofy temperament, the British artist made his guitar louder than ever as he made his way through the past six years on Friday night at the American Airlines Center.
Walking out by himself, Sheeran was alone onstage for the evening. He live looped his guitar riffs and vocals for most songs, layering them in as he went to add depth to his solo act. "Castle On A Hill," an explosive anthem he wrote after being inspired by the hometown nostalgia in Bruce Springsteen's "The River," was a strong jumping off point for the energetic set.
It had been two years since he performed in Dallas and three years since the eloquent writer released a record. Sheeran's vivid and intimate storytelling in his 2017 release, Divide, made the wait well worth it. He played a sizable amount from the album; peppy tracks like "Galway Girl" that are riddled with a mouthful of words and a sing-song chorus, as well as bigger hits like "Shape Of You."
There were moments when the crowd got lost in his long string of words, which started to swirl together and drown out his guitar. Verses became overpowering in "You Need Me, I Don't Need You," when the words morphed into a breathless rap brimming with witty punchlines and jabs that could barely be discerned in the quick-footed tempo. But those flashy verses were tucked in between the heavy, rose-colored stunners Sheeran has built his brand on.
Also known for his clever mash ups, the free-spirited artist wove together a phenomenal combination of the Broadway number "Feeling Good" and his own song, "I See Fire" off the soundtrack for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The pairing of the flashy vocals and robust melodies of the cover and the calm, twisting string work and soft lyrics from "I See Fire" made for a perfect contradiction and demonstrated Sheeran's keen ear.
Welcoming and joyful, the quiet-natured performer stuck to his music, taking little time to introduce the next song or play to the crowd. His lyricism and expert handiwork on both acoustic and electric guitars have always been his staples, with his vocals coming in second.
Another new song, "How Would You Feel (Paean)," flipped this approach completely by relying on his vocal range instead of his instrumentation. Sheeran tiptoed through peaking high notes paired with the ivory keys -- the only song of the evening that was without strings. While his range isn't as broad as other performers, his pitch was spot on and sincere, pushing him outside his usual singing limits.
Saving the standout track from his newest release as one of the closers, Sheeran said "Perfect" is his favorite song he's ever written, and we couldn't agree more. The song's wildly romantic lines and pure innocence encompass Sheeran as an artist and reaffirm why his global audience has fallen in love with him.