SINGAPORE: It's not every performer who can command an entire stadium with just a guitar, a couple of mics, a loop pedal and an LED backdrop - but Ed Sheeran made it work.
The singer-songwriter succeeded in conquering the crowd with his ÷ (pronounced "Divide") world tour on Saturday (Nov 11) at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the first of a two-night sold-out appearance.
The English-born's presence in Singapore had been in doubt until just a few weeks ago, after a recent bicycle accident left him "bruised and broken" with injuries to both arms and a rib.
However, no sign of injury was in evidence on Saturday night, as the performer immediately got the crowd of about 10,000 going with chart-topping hit Castle on the Hill.
The song's rock band-influenced guitar builds crescendoed to a stadium-filling chorus as pre-teen kids and middle-aged couples alike joined in.
Sheeran knows how to work a crowd. "I want to explain how I find myself enjoying concerts," he said, before standing arms plastered to his sides, both feet on the ground, swaying tentatively.
"In England we call this the dad dance," he quips. "I want to implore everyone to do their worst dance and just enjoy yourself!"
And of course the crowd does, jumping along to a version of Don't (from second album x) and New Man (from latest album ÷).
Other songs he performed from his latest album - which according to Sheeran has just gone "six times platinum" in Singapore - were confessional "Sheeran rap" song Eraser, slightly generic love song Dive and ballad How Would You Feel (Paean), which saw Sheeran stage hand and now "buddy" PJ Smith come on stage to accompany with the piano.
Inevitably in the mix were also Sheeran's old chart-topping favourites such as his debut single back in 2011 The A Team (which came third in the set list) and x's Photograph - introduced as "the anthemic one we're all going to sing together".
A highlight of the night was Sheeran's stripped-back, bare-bones cover of Feeling Good, made famous by Nina Simone and more recently Muse.
But the best of the night came with the mid-set folksy ballad Happier, which brought a nice change of pace with its mellower tone and simple rendition.
The "official" (pre-encore) last song was x's hit Sing, which Sheeran co-wrote with American rapper Pharrell Williams and which set the already rapturous crowd cheering even louder.
Sheeran's appeal (and commercial savvy) lies in his everyman likability and this showed in the make-up of the crowd which ranged from little kids to middle-aged couples and family groups.
"I love you Ed!" screamed one little girl who could not have been more than 10. A couple of rows further in front, a very tipsy 20-something tried to stand up on her chair while swaying in time to the music.
"Sing!", "Louder!" the LED backdrop urged them all - not that they needed telling.