1. Overwhelming ‘insanity’
Maria Jorica Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) - March 18, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - I don’t know when Ed Sheeran got famous.

It seems like one day in 2011, his name just started appearing on the hit charts and began steadily climbing rung by rung. Less than three years later, his ballad Thinking Out Loud has become our national anthem, played so many times everywhere that it’s a surprise that people don’t seem tired of it yet.

I knew from the popularity of the song that his concert would be well received, but nothing could have prepared me for the intensity of the Filipino crowd at his concert at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena Thursday night.

The moment the lights dimmed, people literally surged forward forming a wave of humanity that the bouncers could do nothing to stop. Before long, fans were already perched precariously on the foldable seats, which wobbled under their excitement at the opening chords from Sheeran’s guitar. Stragglers who actually had front-row tickets stood arguing with helpless ushers in the wings of what had quickly become a mosh pit.

The reception was shocking, considering the crowds at previous performances in Manila by Sheeran’s contemporaries. Rihanna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and even the pop chart queen herself Taylor Swift had not elicited such passion in their shows.

The crew reportedly even called fans “monkeys” because of the chaos, which was just shades short of K-Pop concerts, where audiences are known for over-the-top antics.

Sheeran himself was “overwhelmed” by the insanity. He had just begun when he said he could already feel that this would be the best show he’s ever done. And this is in spite of the fact that his line-up was unexpected.

Instead of opening with one of his hits, Sheeran chose I’m a Mess — which was never even released as a single. The song choice actually turned out to be quite appropriate, since its title was an accurate description of the state of the seating arrangement.

Now, the decision to play that song first was strange, but what’s more surprising was the crowd’s familiarity with it. His fans sang along with him, almost word for word — expected for a chart-topper like A-Team, but not so much for an album-only song.

The audience kept up the thunderous sing-along the entire concert, which featured a good mix of numbers from his debut album + (read as Plus) and x (read as Multiply).

Crowd favorites included Lego House (the music video for which starred fellow ginger Ron Weasley, lesser known by his real name Rupert Grint), I See Fire, Drunk and Tenerife Sea.

Sheeran also sang a beautiful, unplugged rendition of All of the Stars from The Fault in Our Stars soundtrack, and covers of Stevie Wonder’s Superstitious, 50 Cent’s In Da Club and Iggy Azalea’s Fancy.

Of course, he also played Thinking Out Loud — arguably his biggest hit in the country — but in the middle of the show, and not at the end as expected.

He closed the concert with a personal favorite of mine, Give Me Love, but later came back for an encore performance, which included one of his earliest songs, You Need Me, I Don’t Need You, as well as Sing, the lead single from his sophomore album.

The entire show lasted just a little over an hour and a half, and you could feel that some people were disappointed that the concert was so short.

But I couldn’t fault him for the briefness of his Manila sojourn. It was literally a one-man show of around 20 songs and Sheeran poured everything out on the stage.

Most headlining artists’ performances are memorable because of their sets, costumes and gimmicks. This one, which featured only a man with a guitar, will be etched in Filipino concert scene history simply because of Sheeran’s raw talent and his fans’ equally strong passion for his music.

Many kept singing even after he left the stage, and they stayed in their seats for some time waiting for his return even when the house lights came back on.

But frustrated as they might have been at the show’s length, fans were obviously still on an Ed Sheeran high as they hesitantly filtered out of the arena. Thinking Out Loud was playing in the lobby and people were singing or humming along with the piped-in music.

The hall buzzed with exclamations of “I hope he comes here again!” and “I’m definitely watching his next concert!”

While a second Manila visit is not yet in the works, Sheeran himself said, “This is honestly, hand-to-heart, the best reception I’ve ever received,” so there’s no question that he’ll be back soon.

Until then, Filipinos will continue singing out loud.

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