Ed-ition by Subtraction: Ed Sheeran Plays “Intimate” Minneapolis Show.

Ed Sheeran in concert
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Last updated on August 22nd, 2023 at 06:07 am

Before filling Minneapolis’ US Bank Stadium for The Mathematics Tour, Ed Sheeran delighted and captivated a more “intimate” audience at the State Theater for The Subtract Tour. The purpose of this tour is to play Subtract in venues more conducive to the feel of the songs while adding a “happy hour” of his hits as well. And Sheeran’s talent and charm beamed during every moment while also displaying an empathetic singer/songwriter presence.

Sheeran playfully admitted that “no one’s pumping weights to” the songs in Subtract. At one point, he even labeled them as sad and depressing. They certainly are not the uppity pop radio-dominant tunes like “Shape of You.” But Sheeran felt these songs were more suited to be played in older theater venues while accompanying them with the stories that inspired their creation.

Subtract has songs thought of years ago, yet many were made over a recent condensed time of heartbreak and sorrow for Sheeran. Key events mentioned were his wife Cherry’s cancer diagnosis while pregnant. The other was the death of his friend Jamal. While some songs were completed in 2021, others were added (and some omitted) in 2022 to create the album.

The evening started innocently enough, with coastal songs “Boat” and “Salt Water” opening the show. Then Sheeran told of his friend’s death and how he did not think it was real until he had his “hand on the shovel” at the funeral. And that was the inspiration for “Eyes Closed.”

From there, songs were sung, and stories were told in a somewhat linear way. Sheeran stated that he wanted “the world to pause as it did for the Queen” before realizing that time just keeps ticking along. Thus, “Life Goes On.” And in the process, he reflected on what it is like to experience death at various ages, as in “End of Youth.”

Despite the sorrow and grief that Sheeran admittedly still carries, other songs share the joy of what remains as life carries on. He talked about letting his daughter randomly pick a record to listen to during their vinyl breakfast in “Dusty,” inspired by her selection of Dusty in Memphis. And “Colourblind” was inspired by his parents’ upcoming 40th wedding anniversary.

As a songwriter, Sheeran seems a frenetic writer and creator; though Subtract came out May 5th, he already has another new album coming soon. Upon Cherry’s cancer news, he wrote three songs in a day, and played those consecutively for us. The fitting “No Strings” followed, providing closure to pain and a reminder of the strength of perseverance.

Subtract was accompanied by a full band, including a string section. At its completion, Sheeran shifted to “happy hour,” where his band departed, and he played hits with the aid of his looping setup. That lets him create sound bites, beats, and backing vocals instantly and before the crowd’s eyes, with playback controlled by foot pedals. It is 100% live, on the spot, and deleted after the show. In a way, no two songs are performed the same way.

Sheeran was an absolute virtuoso on the looper, weaving guitar-slapping bass, his own lead and backing vocals, and an array of melodies to house favorites like “Shivers” and “Bad Habits.” From a personal perspective, it added a greater appreciation for the songs and Sheeran’s musical creativity. But this was not even the biggest treat.

Sheeran kindly asked the crowd to sit back down, put all phones away, and listen to three new songs for an upcoming album played only at a few Subtract Tour shows prior. Citing song inspiration from Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, Sheeran played three songs in his trademark solo guitar, high-note style. These songs are “a good playlist for autumn,” so you can guess the album’s release date.

But that was not where the surprises ended. Reiterating his love for the “quiet room where people listen,” the solo-guitar player in the pub, and inspirations like Damien Rice, Sheeran played the Irish farewell song “The Parting Glass” with zero electricity.

No plugged-in guitar, and more astoundingly, no microphone. Standing on the edge of the stage, he shared the song’s origin and then sang. Occasionally strumming, Sheeran’s voice filled every part of the 100+-year-old venue the way it would have been when it opened. And when you thought you had heard it all, he seamlessly wove in his hit “Afterglow” in the same cadence before taking his final bow.

Finally, a special kudos to his opener Ben Kweller, who also entertained as a one-man, one-instrument musician. At times Dylan-esque and at times political, Kweller went from guitar to piano with a liveliness that warmed up the crowd perfectly for the headliner.

Sheeran will surely electrify at his US Bank Stadium concert. You will definitely hear one of his pop hits on the radio or on a streaming playlist. But on Subtract, Sheeran bared his soul for a deeper introspection of himself and the heartbeat of the people that inspire his songs. As a result, you should add the album to your rotation.

Written by James Perovich

Believer in natural light, minimal conceptualization, and perfect timing.


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