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Ed Sheeran at the Hollywood Palladium: Concert Review

Ed Sheeran at Palladium - P 2013
Kyleen James

The Bottom Line

Grammy victory or not, the young British singer-songwriter wins over the crowd with his own sentimental material, choice covers and pop culture mish-mosh.

Venue

Hollywood Palladium
(Saturday, Feb. 9)

"The A Team" singer-songwriter played in front of a sold-out crowd Saturday night at the Hollywood Palladium.

It remained to be seen if Ed Sheeran would win a Song of the Year Grammy for "The A Team" on Sunday night, but in the hearts and minds of the sold-out crowd Saturday night at the Hollywood Palladium, he'd already won. The 21-year-old British singer-songwriter had such a spell on the young crowd that they sang along with each of his words -- even before he requested it. And later, on the quieter numbers, he asked that they not sing -- suggesting they quiet down their noisy neighbors with a look in the eye and a shoulder shrug -- and for the most part, it worked.

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While the material he's written for boy band One Direction and recorded with Taylor Swift can be dismissed as lightweight, the songs he's released under his own name have considerably more heft, especially in a live setting. With "The A Team," he may have the only current hit on top 40 radio that deals with drug addiction and prostitution. At the Palladium, he commanded the stage with such confidence that he saved his biggest hit until the end of his nearly 90-minute set. And when he did finally pull it out, segueing to it immediately from the traditional "Parting Glass," it was a magical moment.

Aside from the Grammy nomination, Sheeran has received blessings from his classic rock elders. That was him singing Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" at the Summer Olympics Closing Ceremonies backed by Floyd's Nick Mason and Mike Rutherford of Genesis, and on the Grammys, he's set to duet with Elton John. At the Palladium, it was easy to see why. Although some of his original material, like "Give Me Love," can seem a bit too overly sentimental to some, the girls certainly understand and swooned. At his most tender, he recalled Damien Rice, an artist he name-checks in his "You Need Me, I Don't Need You," and when he got into his rapid-fire rapping in that song, he was reminiscent of Jason Mraz. Sheeran pulls off the one-man show with a collection of pedals that allow him to loop his voice, beats and guitar riffs, a technique that's been used by other artists, including KT Tunstall and Joseph Arthur. That strategy allowed him to take off his guitar at numerous points in the show and leap to the top of the monitors to further connect with the crowd.

While the audience certainly loved Sheeran's originals -- including "Kiss Me," performed Saturday with opening act Foy Vance -- the real revelation was his performance of a few choice covers. First, his rendition of the traditional "Wayfaring Stranger" was goose-bump-inducing, with Sheeran, bathed in blue light, layering his vocals and a beat to create a mesmerizing mix. A few songs later, he introduced Nina Simone's "Be My Husband," explaining he added it to his repertoire after he was booked for the Monterey Jazz Festival. Rather than changing the lyrics, Sheeran stuck to the original, joking with the male members of the crowd that it was OK for them to sing, "'Oh Daddy, love me good." He sang the song with such conviction, it knocked sexual stereotypes on their head and possibly turned a new generation of fans on to the brilliance of Simone.

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Yet, he wasn't only looking backward. In his extended version of "You Need Me, I Don't Need You," he dropped in a few lines from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' current monster hit "Thrift Shop," and in the same song added in a few riffs of Derek and the Dominos' "Layla," before he was joined on stage by a pair of Star Wars stormtroopers and opening hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks for a glorious pop culture mish-mash, but somehow it all worked.

Sheeran will play again in L.A., celebrating his 22nd birthday, next Sunday with a sold-out show at the Nokia Theatre.

Set List:

Give Me Love
Drunk
You and I
Grade 8
Wayfaring Stranger
Small Bump
Be My Husband
Kiss Me
Gold Rush
Wake Me Up
Lego House

Encore:

You Need Me, I Don't Need You
Parting Glass
The A Team

Twitter: @THRmusic

Kyleen James