Ed Sheeran seems like a fine pop rocker. But he bombed at a sold-out show at Capital One Arena

Three weeks before selling out two sold-out days at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, top songsmith Ed Sheeran embarked on a sold-out night at Capital One Arena for an intimate, stadium-scale gig. And in the words…

Ed Sheeran seems like a fine pop rocker. But he bombed at a sold-out show at Capital One Arena

Three weeks before selling out two sold-out days at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, top songsmith Ed Sheeran embarked on a sold-out night at Capital One Arena for an intimate, stadium-scale gig. And in the words of the more than 7,000 people who came to see the last-minute show, it was worth the effort. At least at the basics, it was.

“Shape of You” and “Perfect” are the newest tracks to join Sheeran’s insanely successful catalog of hits from the past two years. The multi-million-selling-multi-platinum-billing hero (and actor) brought a nine-song set designed to showcase his lush melodies and playfully nuanced vocals.

But for 90 minutes on Thursday, his success, packed into three-dimensional surround sound, was all on Heeran’s singing—which was, of course, wonderful, despite the tired musical guff about “my baby” and “my heart.”

He showed off his pop gifts, strutting around stage and delivering tight hits such as “Don’t” and “The A Team.” He shared them with his guitar-strumming pop-punk band, plus his sidekick who, while a brilliant harmony singer, was a puzzling little botch-up. (The two recorded voice-overs in “Supermarket Flowers” aside, The Skips were not among the era’s finest pop newcomers.)

The madcap speed at which Sheeran spun through his own works was quite impressive. Which is not to say that he veered into earnest country songs, as he did in his only solo gig earlier this week at Old Navy Field. This time, though, what he fell into was far less compelling.

His choreographed shows leave very little space for improvisation, and there were a few cutting moments in Thursday’s tightly choreographed “Butterflies.” The best, though, came near the end when he performed “Sing,” grabbing a dancer’s chair and jumping around in it, like the cat who got the cream.

On Twitter, his colleague, WTOP-AM host DJ Red Alert 6, tried to salvage the show by proclaiming that “#Sheeran loves it,” though by then, the mood in the crowd had soured. In the age of social media, no one seemed particularly surprised by the lack of enthusiasm—or the limp song choices—for those who pay upwards of $1,000 for tickets.

Did Sheeran’s performance live up to the hype? It’s quite difficult to say. “Perfect” served as a final reminder that it was OK to be utterly 100 percent familiar with Sheeran’s tunes.

The one hour and 43-minute show was an homage to arena-level music and the best pop music is at least almost always about the music.

Take a look back at more D.C. concert reviews.

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