Photos and Review by Jennie Book
Ed Sheeran’s +-=÷x Tour stormed into Levi’s Stadium on September 16, 2023, leaving no doubt that the British superstar not only moves souls but brings crowds. Fresh off an intimate stint at Oakland’s Fox Theater, Sheeran transformed Santa Clara’s iconic mega venue into a sonic wonderland that broke records and enraptured his fans.
Drawing staggering attendance numbers of over 75k+, Sheeran blew away all previous non-festival records, and then with song two of the evening (“Blow,”) he literally blew up the night sky with amazing pyrotechnics as they rocketed out of canisters set into the stage in the round.
Sheeran’s 26-song setlist read like a chart-topping anthology, offering fans a feast of hits. “Sing,” with its melodic charm led the charge, plus the emotional “Perfect” which made all the lovebirds who’d used it as their wedding song sway in the crowd. A fun addition was Sheeran’s rendition of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself,” a song he had a hand in crafting, which drew a sing-along from the stadium. “I See Fire” brought emotional intensity, and “Bloodstream” became a stadium-sized heart-pounding banger.
Sheeran used looping for his accompanying music for almost the entire show, an impressive musical feat where sounds are layered on each other along with live-sampled vocal bits and then played back as accompaniment for a full band experience, all controlled with footpedals and recording. He did all of this live and then told the crowd he’d be throwing it all away and re-looping live at his next show in Los Angeles. He brought out his actual band for about half of his songs, a new experience as he usually plays solo, which added a full musical element to the songs they performed together.
The stage production was incredible, with a giant rotunda screen hanging over the stage in the round, and monitors wrapped around large pillars which stuck up into the sky, plus giant screens on each pillar in the shape of guitar picks. Ed continuously walked the stage on a moving circular conveyer belt (a “lazy susan”) so that all sections of the stadium could get a good look at him – all an engineering feat that worked amazingly well in the huge space.
The crowd loved it all, and were singing along long before Ed declared the latter part of the show to be “where the real singalong begins.” He thanked the crowd for coming to the show, telling everyone that he knew they’d traveled far and wide to get there, and was grateful they’d chosen to spend the evening with him.
Sheeran’s three-song encore included chart toppers “Shape of You” and “Bad Habits,” keeping the hits coming for nearly two and a half hours all told. As the night closed, fireworks lit up the sky, and it’s doubtful that Sheeran, wearing his Santa Clara tour t-shirt as he sang all those favorites to his fans, could have made the crowd any happier.
Ed Sheeran’s Mathematics Tour continues across the US, culminating in a finale at London’s Royal Albert Hall on November 18th. Keep watch on Ed Sheeran’s official website for all the latest, and be on the lookout for new album “Autumn Variations” to be released on September 29th.