Attending An Ed Sheeran Concert As A Tiny, Claustrophobic Girl
November 19 has turned out be quite the occasion for music fiends for the past two years. Last year Coldplay performed on the same day at the MMRDA grounds as part of Global Citizen India. This year, Ed Sheeran was chosen to fill those rather big shoes and he did so with much aplomb. I say this because BookMyShow was kind enough to host me in the diamond lounge which means I was as close to Ed Sheeran as one could possibly get once you had successfully braved the throng of squealing teenagers and enthusiastic parents.
As you may have figured from the headline, when a higher power was doling out height, I was probably lounging around in the sleeping section leading to my current existence as a 25-year-old girl of 5’2″ who unfortunately looks a lot meeker than she is. So, ecstatic as I was about watching one of my favourite artistes perform live, I couldn’t help but feel dismayed as I gawked at the crowd around — and above — me. A sincere question: What does the diet of the Gen Z teenager include? They have to be eating food items that are not of this planet because boy, are they tall! These apparent humanoids towered over me as I set up camp at Jio Garden at 6 p.m., two hours before Sheeran was scheduled to appear on stage. I then proceeded to chomp on some pizza from the various stalls erected at the venue for the occasion.
One hour 20 minutes later a surprise unfolded in the form of Ari Staprans Leff, stage name Lauv, who, unbeknownst to me, was the opening act of the night. Greeted with cheers by an audience that had grown tired of waiting, he belted out some of his popular numbers (I only know this because the teenagers around me sang along fervently), exiting to a cheeky “Thank you for not sucking” from someone in the audience. Lauv, though, was not the sole shocker of the night. Even more incredible was an impressively punctual Sheeran who took to the stage at 8 p.m. on the dot. In a country that has grown largely accustomed to late celebrity arrivals and bands cancelling gigs due to unruly crowds (remember the Metallica fiasco in 2011?), this was like a breath of fresh air. I’d always thought of Sheeran as an adorably gawky introvert who bashfully revelled in the limelight, earning the adulation of millions of fans with a wry smile. My presumptions came true when he walked hurriedly onto the stage, mumbled a few words of greeting and launched into the familiar guitar strain of Castle on the Hill.
Ironically, that was when everything went downhill for me.
Don’t get me wrong, none of my vexation was aimed at anything other than my aforementioned height and the fact that I was at uncomfortably close quarters with 10,000 other people. It is said that attending a concert is tantamount to indulging all five senses simultaneously. In my case, I could see the knotted tresses of the girl in front of me, I could hear the voices of everyone except Sheeran, I could touch ten other bodies without moving a single limb in my body, I could smell the coalesced perspiration of the enthusiastic crowd – after a while I could almost taste it too. It didn’t help that my claustrophobia decided to act up at that very moment and it wasn’t long before I had completely shrunk into myself and shut all my senses off. It was around this time that Sheeran came to my rescue.
More specifically, it was his voice that did. I was amazed to discover just how well I was capable of training my mind to rise above the din of the crowd and give myself over to the singer’s mellifluous goodness. It also made me appreciate what a consummate performer he is. If listening to Sheeran’s songs on your headphones brings back memories of past loves, lost friends and evergreen childhoods, watching him live actually opens portals to those worlds. Happier physically conjured an unrequited love out of thin air, Photograph transformed me into the chubby baby I once was, Perfect brought me face-to-face with a soulmate I’m yet to meet and Don’t felt like I was penning a letter to the man who once ghosted me.
I’d also like to call out just how much of a sport Sheeran was. From garbing himself in a blue kurta embellished with Divide written in Devanagari script to summoning pianist PJ on stage amidst much applause during How Would You Feel, he knew how to have the crowd eating out of his hand. He also took the time to regale us with some personal anecdotes which included replicating his terrified ‘concert face’ from when he attended gigs by other singers and was asked to groove along.
Soon, he broke into Sing, which he nonchalantly said was the last song of the night, eliciting screams of protests from the audience. His exit being most anti-climatic, I heard someone plaintively say that he hadn’t even said a heartfelt goodbye before leaving. As I accepted this as the caprice of the creative soul and turned to leave, the crowd erupted into a deafening roar — Sheeran had come back on stage having changed into a Team India jersey. As the easily recognisable piano introduction to Shape of You began playing on the speakers, the audience reached the zenith of its frenzy. I was wrong, of course, for the highlight of the night was when he performed a most creative rendition of You Need Me, I Don’t Need You, a truly fitting culmination to a perfect act. At the end of it, even through all the sweat and claustrophobia, Sheeran made me feel like he was a close friend, letting me in on the secrets of the universe, one song at a time – no small feat for an artiste singing in front of 10,000 people. In that moment, I have to admit it was worth it.