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Ed Sheeran Brought His “Mathematics Tour” to Electrify Tampa in 2023



It was a night to remember for the legions of Ed Sheeran fans who packed the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on August 17th, 2023. The English singer-songwriter’s highly anticipated “Mathematics Tour” rolled into town, and the crowd was whipped into a frenzy of singing, dancing, and reverential appreciation for one of the biggest acts in music today.

From the moment Sheeran took the stage, his affable persona and once-in-a-generation talent commanded the audience’s rapt attention. Armed with just his guitar, a loop pedal, and that transcendent voice, he seamlessly blended skills as a vocalist, instrumentalist, and arranger into a mind-blowing one-man show.

The “Mathematics Tour” is aptly named after Sheeran’s albumshString of mathematical symbols, and the setlist drew heavily from those platinum and multi-platinum records. But longtime fans also rejoiced at the inclusion of beloved hits from his earlier days as he fused old and new into an eclectic, electrifying performance.

The show kicked off with the ubiquitous “Tides,” the lead single from his latest album “Mathematics”. Sheeran effortlessly built layer upon layer of percussion, harmonies, and guitar riffs through his looping mastery, creating a virtual “band of one” before our very eyes. The mesmerizing effect was amplified all the more by the ultra-creative circular lighting rig and complementary visuals enveloping him in a commanding yet intimate spotlight.

From there, Sheeran’s setlist was an embarrassment of riches that reminded me just why he’s one of the most streamed artists ever. We were whisked away to a lively Irish pub during the soaring “Galway Girl.” The driving groove of “Shivers” kicked the energy into an even higher gear. Moments of tenderness like the heart-melting “Perfect” and iconic “Thinking Out Loud” lent balance to the high-octane tracks.

But no Ed Sheeran show would be complete without renditions of the global smashes that first seared his name into our consciousness. Fans were enraptured by the cyclic cadences and catchy chorus of “Shape of You,” and we hung on every tender turn of phrase in “Photograph.” Ubiquitous as those songs are, hearing and seeing them performed live by that inimitable voice was downright transcendent.

Sheeran’s artistic brilliance was on full display all night long, but just as impactful was his humble, down-to-earth persona. Between songs, he’d often rebuff the frenetic adulation with sheepish grins or self-deprecating quips, as if the very idea of being a world-famous superstar still hasn’t fully sunk in.

At one point, he spotted a peculiar sign in the audience – a letterbox pizza box adorned with endearingly misspelled lyrics. Not only did he make it a point to bring the cheeky sign-holder on stage, but he spent a couple of minutes admiring the memento and sharing some laughs at its quirky ingenuity. For all his accolades and record-breaking milestones, Sheeran never forgets that his wonderfully weird fans are the bedrock of his rarefied successes.

Other humanizing vignettes included his recounting of humble pre-fame days going bar to bar, busking for change but learning the craft of audience connection through thousands of reps of Damien Rice and Bob Dylan covers. Or the amusing story about how his song “Don’t” was born from an ill-advised attempt to rap that ended in diaristic self-reflection instead. These slices of realness resonated all the more given the astronomical scale of the gargantuan venue he was playing.

While Sheeran demonstrated an easy mastery of modern loop pedal artistry and percussive guitar techniques all night, he also paid tribute to his inspirations and roots. The distinctively skilled footwork of artists like Rodrigo y Gabriela was obvious during his cover of Britney Spears’ iconic “…Baby One More Time.” And his takes on traditional folk standards reminded me that long before he became a textbook example of the contemporary singer-songwriter, he immersed himself in hallowed musical histories.

As if the nearly two-and-a-half hour performance wasn’t enough of an embarrassment of riches already, Sheeran obliged his roaring fans with a double-shot of encore crowd-pleasers: the tenderly inspirational “Overpass Graffiti” followed by the bouncing funk-pop of “Bad Habits.” For final bows, he brought out support acts Khalid and Dylan to share the stage amid a shower of bright colors and a swirling LED kaleidoscope of human bodies unified in revelry.

Flushed with sweat and delirious grins all around, it was a celebratory release of the pent-up energy from an electrifying evening with a once-in-a-generation talent. Ed Sheeran doesn’t just play a concert, he creates a multi-dimensional experience that blends his everyman persona, existential songwriting, technical innovation, and inclusionary showmanship into something more miraculous. Tampa was just the latest city to be blessed by his magic, and based on the rapturous reception, we’ll summon him back again as soon as we possibly can.

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