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Ed Sheeran, Mercury Lounge, Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

What's with Ed Sheeran and homelessness. Two short stories and three songs during his second set ever in the US at Mercury Lounge, not to mention "Little Lady", about the lengths people are forced to go to to not be homeless, or even the 20 year old singer-songwriter, er, rappers breakthrough hit "The A Team"-about a homeless woman. Indeed, he even plays a song called "Homeless" and though he has just bought his first house, claims to have spent the past couple of years on friend's sofas. There is an edge of liberalism and empathy to Ed, even if it feels a little overweening. Even if it is a little unreal. Like his own hard knock life is unreal

Still, the kid is young, didn't I mention Ed is only  20 years old? And a big deal in the UK. That probably explains some of the naivety in his more or less first rate show. Someone meaner than me might sneer at his bathetic claim that he, himself, has been homeless. But I won't say anything of the sort because in a 50 minute set, truncated by a song so the late act can start on time, Sheeran managed a wide ranging, and overwhelming fun performance.

 Dressed in jeans and a printed tee, Ed enjoined the stage with an emotionally bent opening number. Moving between two mics, one taping to a loop he (over) uses as back up to his sole accompaniment, an acoustic guitar, Sheeran nails "Give Me Love", flooding the song with so much feeling it is as if he deserves to oversell the song. It is a power ballad, and it is a dandy and it improves when he cuts the audience in half (FIGURATIVELY) so we can back him up on the chorus. "Don't sing, scream" is his suggestion.A good suggestion. I bet in England there would be a lot of girls screaming, in new York there is lots of mouthy English guys, who Ed let's get away with it for for awhile before telling them to fuck off.

For the second song he becomes a human beat box and raps pretty well, and then he shows off a tattoo he just got on his arm. removing  the bandage.

Throughout, Sheeren is given hints and allegations as to just who he is. The truth is, after seeing a Damien Rice concert at the age of 14, Ed tried his hand at songwriting. By 18 he had a publishing deal with Rocketmusic (Elton John's company) and was signed to  Atlanta. His first album "+" is at number one in the UK and awaiting release here. His opening slot with Snow Patrol in April, will up his public image through the roof. As rock nyc's resident Sheeran fanatic Mary Magpie discovered, it is already sold out in the North East.

Ed is obviously aware of all this, but he is trying, tonight at least, to cling to something else in the second night of his  New York debut. Perhaps the kid who flew to Los Angeles and played open mic gigs for a couple of year, wants the cosiness he can't get in the UK where his fame has trumped him.  Perhaps, the desire for a connection in the tiny confines of the Mercury Lounge as well as his New York debuts, leads him to a friendliness he doesn't always possess (or maybe simply won't always possess) , but tonight he is a charming hos, playing through his book of tricks and always  doing one of three things.

1. Looping his backing vocals and guitars.

2. Getting us to scream along.

3. Telling stories.

He tells an excellent story about helping the homeless at a "Crises At Christmas" concert, tells us about his Godfather proposing to his Godmother, drunkenly, on a train and she drunkenly accepting and how Ed  wrote a love song, "Kiss Me" because his other love songs weren't right for the weeding this summer where he plans to sing it. And then  he proceeds to sing it to us. And it is sugar sweet,  And by the last song of the concert, a stunning, second best song of the night,  "You Need Me, I Don't Need You" mixed with "In Da Club" and "Welcome To Jamrock", there is no doubting the guys power to convince and convert, And the entire song is another story any way. About Ed -tongue in cheek, the world in his jeans pocket.

Since there is no backstage at Mercury Lounge, Ed told us to imagine he had left the stage after his hip hop extravaganza. "I'd say leave now, if you want." Ed quipped. "But it is an early show, and only a pussy would go this early."

So for the encore, Ed dragged a table into the middle of the floor, stood on it  and sang an Irish drinking song, "Parting Glances" before a cover of "Guilding Light" and exiting out to the side. Unfortunately, he had misjudged his timing a little and we didn't get "Legoland".

So will Sheeren break big in the States? Maybe. He doesn't suffer from the too British for his own good syndrome which has inflicted everybody from Cliff Richard to Paul Weller so he could. His hip hop propensity saves him from that. And he is a good looking lad, with a firm body and a ready wit.

Ed  is good enough to make it here. The set did everything Sheeren needed to get done and if, personally, I can't stand "Kiss Me" and "Wayfaring Stranger" and, if, personally, I think he is too chummy with us sometimes, I am just pointing to the obvious. Sheeren is a talented fellow with a long career ahead of him, in the UK for sure. But he is young and a little obvious and a little overwrought..

Grade: A-


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