Published on theMusic.com.au, Mar 2018
Pic by Elliot Cahill
Ed Sheeran, Missy Higgins, Fergus James
Opening for one of the biggest pop acts in the world only two days after releasing your debut single is a mammoth task, but one that NSW country boy Fergus James was more than ready for as he claimed the title of the first artist to ever play at Perth’s Optus Stadium.
“This is a historic event that none of you will ever forget,” said Frontier Touring boss Michael Gudinski, welcoming the 18-year-old to the stage with his band.
James’ surprisingly mature and developed sound toed the line between stadium pop and rough indie rock, Little Bit You employing an upbeat twang, while acoustic number Snow paid tribute to the evening’s headline act.
Night fell and the stadium was an entirely different place by the time Missy Higgins took the stage. The affable singer struck up a conversation with a frontrow punter and then fittingly kicked into Everyone’s Waiting, with heavenly backing vocals and a soaring melody line.
“I don’t think I’ve played in front of this many people ever,” Higgins revealed, but it only took her a few bars into old school hit Ten Days for her to lock into an infectious energy and find her groove on such a big stage.
Announcing her new album, Solastalgia, earlier that week, Higgins treated fans to the first-ever performance of unreleased tune Cemetery, which teased a radical change of pace for the established musician.
A new generation fell in love with classic Scar, while a stripped-back version of Hunters & Collectors’ Throw Your Arms Around Me was a highlight of the night.
With the stadium illuminated blue and the stage wrapped in artwork from last year’s acclaimed ÷ LP, the scene was set for what could arguably be described as one of Perth’s most anticipated concerts to date. The house lights were finally cut and a live stream of Ed Sheeran leaving his greenroom elicited a deafening roar. He casually grabbed his trademark guitar and instantly transformed into a one-man army, laying down a beat and sweeping into 2017’s Castle On The Hill as a flurry of relevant visuals consumed the screens around the stage.
“I’m playing songs that hopefully you know, and if you don’t know them, it’s going to be a long hour and a half,” the UK singer laughed. Even those living under a rock and unfamiliar with his hits would have been mesmerised by the whirlwind guitar work on songs like Eraser.
The acoustics of the new venue held up remarkably well, complimenting Sheeran’s sound while elevating the crowds’ collective voice in 2011 hit The A Team, creating a truly intimate and emotional experience. At times, it was easy to forget you were in such a mammoth outdoor venue with 60,000 people.
“There’s no backing track,” Sheeran was quick to point out, explaining the functionality of his loop station after accusations at Glastonbury last year.
He claimed that Nashville currently holds the record for his loudest crowd ever and set Perth the task of beating them by “screaming out of tune” in acoustic ballad Dive. It was a request which resulted in a spine-tingling singalong, the likes of which the state likely hadn’t experienced before.
But, Sheeran wasn’t satisfied yet, demanding the unwilling attendees (the “super dads” and boyfriends), participate in Bloodstream by raising their fists. You’d be forgiven for thinking Sheeran was enlisting an army when its beat dropped, as a sea of energy was lit by bold red lights.
The looping mastermind didn’t need effects to stun the audience and convey his message, though, pulling things back for Happier and I’m A Mess, which lent on raw melodies and simple guitar parts for the most part.
Breaking the lone wolf format, Sheeran invited touring stage-hand PJ Smith to the stage for piano duties on How Would You Feel; an element that added a level of excitement to a song that usually “chills people out”.
Pop rock megahit Galway Girl transitioned into Michael Buble’s Feeling Good and then I See Fire before the night’s highlight, Photograph, captured the evening perfectly alongside Perfect.
Fans had one final chance to dance like crazy in Nancy Mulligan and sing until they lost their voice in Thinking Out Loud and Sing and they did just that, continuing to fill the venue with deafening screams until well after encore tunes Shape Of You and You Need Me, I Don’t Need You.
Even the super dads and boyfriends were blown away by Ed Sheeran in WA last night. It’s easy to see why the Aus and NZ leg of the ÷ World Tour has sold one million ticket sales.