Bad sound in Arena nearly drowns pop star Ed Sheeran

Pop star Ed Sheeran faced an old-fashioned sound problem in the Johan Cruijff Arena on Thursday evening. Thanks to his large reservoir hits, he still survived.

Stefan Raatgever

Concerts in the Johan Cruijff Arena; they were notorious for their bad sound. A double echo of the grandstands and closed roof certainly led to some dramatic reverberation evenings in the past. But the stadium learned. And lo and behold, thanks in part to sound-damping cushions against the roof, the Rolling Stones sounded great last week. What also helped Mick Jagger & co: a stadium without empty spaces.

It is precisely these factors that give Ed Sheeran a very difficult start. Thanks to its stage set-up – including six immense light poles – in the center spot there is no longer room for the silencers and an extra chance of howling sound. And then the Arena is not completely sold out (there are no more tickets for Friday’s show).

Because Sheeran opens with a full band, the sound mash is impenetrable for three songs. The sound will improve throughout the evening, but the nearly 60,000 fans continue to struggle to understand his speech between songs. Shame.

baggy pants

For example, we don’t hear from Sheeran’s genius until he comes before Shivers cranks up his loop station for the first time. His live one-man band became his trademark on the live stage. And ten years after his breakthrough, it remains astonishingly good to hear how he plays and mixes everything on his own: recording a few guitar chords, adding keyboard parts, the beats and then the whole thing on repeat. The trick became one of the building blocks of his astronomical success.

Who had his debut hit in 2012 The A Team dare to bet on a career that would take him to concerts in football stadiums in just a few years? Sheeran recalled it himself: he played that first success times for half-filled bars until, after England, the Netherlands was one of the first countries to embrace the singer.

He is now probably the biggest pop star on Earth. Fortunately not because of his looks – Sheeran appeared as usual in baggy pants and black T-shirt – but mainly thanks to a collection of megahits expanding at a sprint pace. There are so many, that it even takes a medley halfway through to get them all played.

Because Sheeran (31) is also one of the most likeable men in pop, everything seemed ready for a memorable evening. But although Sheeran, who will not tour for a while after his concert series, took flamethrowers on stage for the first time, the fire in Arena does not want to ignite.

The pop star does everything. On a roaring career, he continues to sprint laps around his stage. Sweat beaded on his forehead. But it doesn’t really want to fly.

Not that there aren’t beautiful moments. For example, a Brazilian fan proposes to his friend with the help of Sheeran. After the grooms’ affirmative kiss, Sheeran plays candlelight cracker Thinking Out Loud for them. It sounds wonderful, especially with an entire stadium in the backing choir.

Irresistibly sweet

Because Sheeran has more songs that will soon have you singing along from start to finish (written it for Justin Bieber love yourself, sing and – again so irresistibly sweet – Perfect) the final movement still turns out to be powerful and entertaining.

The best song is in the encore: Shape of You is – certainly at his loop station – pop perfection, and turns out to be suitable for getting a stadium moving right up to the back row.

This way you can still feel good on the cobblestones in front of the stadium. But also with a question in your head: how would Sheeran sound in a nice sweaty Paradiso?