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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

IN PHOTOS: Ed Sheeran’s fourth tour is a ‘Don’t’ miss

Ed Sheeran brings ‘+–=÷×’ tour to Nashville to conclude his quintology of algebraic albums.
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Barrie Barto
Ed Sheeran raises his hands and guitar, as photographed on July 22, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto)

If there was one website I was on more than any other this summer, it was edsheeran.com. I have been in love with Ed Sheeran’s simple yet emotional style since I saw his Grammy performance in 2017, where he mixed “Shape of You” live on stage with an acoustic guitar and loop pedal. I needed to see him live. Of course, I ended up in my home away from home this summer, Nissan Stadium, and on July 22, I arrived ready to relive memories from middle and high school dances and make new ones screaming along to more recent hits.

The stage in Nissan was set up in the round for Sheeran to play alone in the center of the field. Soaring support columns stood at intervals around the edges holding guitar pick-shaped screens at the top and platforms for the band at their base. 

Opener Cat Burns, who couldn’t make the show due to flight troubles, was replaced by Ben Kweller. Although he was used to opening the smaller theater venues on Sheeran’s parallel “–” tour, he stepped up after getting the call Friday night from Sheeran after their show at the Ryman. Kweller’s set, played on acoustic guitar, was short and sweet. It featured a few of his top songs “Falling” and “Full Circle.” Both had catchy choruses that allowed the audience to sing along. 

Next on stage was Khalid, another artist who was an essential part of my teenage years. He was a bundle of friendly energy, often pausing mid-song to wave at the crowd and complement fans’ signs. Crowd favorites like “Location” and “8TEEN” from his “American Teen” album, as well as other songs he had collaborated on like “lovely,” had the fans singing along through his 12 song set. 

 “Nothing feels better than this moment right here, I am gonna miss y’all,” Khalid said after closing with his song “Better” and exiting stage with a final wave. 

Sheeran appeared at 8:15 p.m. CDT, jamming with his full band to “Tides” from “=” before launching into a high-energy production of “BLOW” complete with pyrotechnics. After those opening numbers, the energy slowed a bit for Sheeran to start the first of two solo portions of the set. He plays alone on stage with a loop pedal, making each night of the show unique as the song is mixed live on stage. 

Songs from each of Sheeran’s albums were scattered throughout this portion of the set. During “Don’t” he mixed some of “No Diggity” into the middle, calling back to his copyright trial where he used the song as part of his defense strategy. Next Sheeran played “Eyes Closed,” the last song he wrote for his most recent album “–,” followed by “Give Me Love,” which was the first song he wrote for his mathematics series on the “+” album. During that song he split the stadium in half and taught the attendance record-breaking crowd how to sing both the high and low harmonies along to the chorus. “Boat” was the first song Sheeran wrote for “–” and closed out this solo portion of the show. 

“I thought it was a real shame to leave off some of the collaborations that I’ve done over the years,” Sheeran said welcoming his band back to the stage. “I don’t play with a band. I play solo.”

Sheeran was referring to the “No.6 Collaborations Project” he released in 2019. He sang a mash up of many hits from the album. Khalid joined Sheeran on stage for their song “Beautiful People.” An additional band member, Alicia, appeared for “Galway Girl” from the album “÷” to play the fiddle. 

Before the band left, they began what Sheeran called the “Sing A Long” portion of the show with “Thinking Out Loud.” 

“The ones past this point are the ones your grandmother knows,” Sheeran said, “And if you don’t know the words to this song, then you’re at the wrong concert.”

The rest of the sing-a-long was played solo. He first sang a cover of a song he wrote, Justin Beiber’s “Love Yourself,” in which Sheeran had the crowd sing the part of the trumpet solo.  He played “First Times” after noting he wrote the song while living in Nashville in 2018, and then “Tenerife Sea” which he wrote in 2013 sitting on a lake in Hendersonville, Tenn. I was then transported to slow dancing in a sweaty courtyard during sophomore year homecoming as Sheeran played “Perfect,”but when played live, the song was more alive and less wistful than the radio version of my childhood. The stadium felt full of love. 

Ed Sheeran speaks into the microphone, as photographed on July 22, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto) (Barrie Barto)

Sheeran’s band joined him one last time to close his show with “Afterglow.” Sheeran pronounced his profound appreciation for his fans and the crowd that joined him in Nissan for the night. He added how special it was to have sold out shows in America as an Englishman.

However, Sheeran didn’t stay away from the stage for long. He came back out in a Titans jersey with the number five and “Subtract” across the back and a huge foam cowboy hat which he threw into the crowd. The encore started with “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You.”

“Nashville I am in love with the shape of you,” Sheeran said after playing the song by the same title. 

To finish the night, Sheeran played “Bad Habits” to which the crowd clapped along while he mixed the background tracks and then jumped and screamed to the lyrics. Unlike the song, Sheeran didn’t end the night alone. He was surrounded by a record breaking 73,874 fans, standing under fireworks shooting from the top of his stage. And as his memorable performance deserved, Sheeran walked off with a mic drop.

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About the Contributor
Barrie Barto
Barrie Barto, Editor-in-Chief
Barrie Barto ('25) is majoring in medicine, health & society with neuroscience and communication of science & technology minors in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as Photography Director. When she's not strolling around campus with her camera, you can find Barrie cheering on the St. Louis Blues or tracking down the best gluten-free food in Nashville. She can be reached at [email protected].
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