Ed Sheeran Thrills Audience with Intimate Show at Ruth Eckerd Hall
On the eve of his show at the Buccaneers home of Raymond James Stadium, singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran played a much smaller and intimate show at Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall. Fans clamored for a chance for tickets, which sold out quicker than you can say “Subtract”, Ed’s new album. He brought a string orchestra and a 5-piece band along to present his newest work. The energy in the room of the 2,180 fans was electric and respectful. It was not lost on this audience how lucky they were to see this firsthand experience for them and for Ed Sheeran. Clearwater being the first of these small shows and Sheeran acknowledged that he had used the hall previously in 2021 for rehearsal during the NFL Kickoff Show and said “he would like to come back and play Ruth Eckerd.” Don’t think Ed knew it was sooner than he thought!
Opening with “Boat” from Subtract, Ed warns that the first part of the show might be sad but promises he will play more upbeat tunes later in the show. Clearly, the last couple of years have been challenging for Sheeran who lost his close friend Jamal Edwards, his wife Cherry had a cancer scare and the famous copyright lawsuit trial over “Thinking Out Loud.” What his trying times have brought are beautiful and honest lyrics in the songs on Subtract, like in “Dancing with My Eyes Closed.” The audience at the Ruthie could feel Ed’s pain with lines like, “Dealin’ with the cards life has dealt.” Sheeran’s voice conveys such emotion with his range on these emotional ballads.
Sheeran is so down-to-earth talking to the audience about his most personal feelings about life issues whether it is about Jamal, his wife or feeding his daughter’s breakfast while listening to music. He says the range of music listening in the Sheeran household can be anywhere from Black Sabbath to Joni Mitchell. Obviously, his wife Cherry is a muse for many of his songs like “No Strings.” A lovely tribute to Dusty Springfield called “Dusty” is on the record. All 14 songs from “Subtract” were played with the band. For the second part of the show, it was acoustic and beat box Ed solo. He gave the fans what they wanted, starting with the A-Team, the song that gave Ed his big break. “Thinking Out Loud” was a sing-a-long and freedom that it is legally Ed’s song once and for all. Beat boxing on “Bloodstream” broke a string. “Shape of You” had the crowd sing back to Ed. “Bad Habits” had everyone out of their seats!
For the encore, Ed came back to the stage and played an Irish or Scottish folk song depending who you ask, called “The Parting Glass.” “Afterglow” closed out the show. A great show of range of emotions, lyrics and music that makes smaller venues so appealing. As Ed said, “These are two different shows this weekend.” Great idea to mix it up, Ed is doing this in a few cities around the country. Try to catch one if you can. All the songs on “Subtract” are on video, check out YouTube. For the entire setlist, check out HERE.
Opening act was Ben Kweller. He was discovered by Dave Matthews and was signed to Dave’s record label. Great strong singer, he played acoustic, piano and harmonica. He played a love song “Thirteen” that he played at Ed and Cherry’s wedding. He has been working with Ed since 2015.
Vicky Sullivan Photos