Ed Sheeran in Manila: What is it like to watch Ed Sheeran live?

Photos by TJ Leonardo

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The irony about music is that it’s both extremely personal and public. A song can take you back to your most euphoric or vulnerable moments. But in the same way that it feels so personal to you, thousands of people can be tuning in to the very same song—and feeling just as raw and emotional as you do.

That’s probably why concerts like Ed Sheeran’s Divide tour have become such a phenomenon. Last Sunday, April 8, Ed was almost like a one-man band at the Mall of Asia Concert Grounds—a massive concert venue (at least going by Philippine standards) with a capacity of 25,000 people.

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Despite the huge crowd, there was no unnecessary pomp and pageantry. No fireworks. No surprise guests. Not even an opening act. Just Ed with his guitar, his breathtaking vocals, and his ability to connect with a crowd.

Ed thanked his Filipino fans, who always make him feel loved and supported. (Divide already reached 8x platinum in the country–the same status it shares with UK, Ed’s own home country!)

He also talked about how much he enjoyed being in the Philippines again. He thanked his fans for their patience. “This trip was obviously meant to happen,” he shared.

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I looked around the audience. In front of me were a mom and her son, who looked to be around 12 years old. They took pictures and videos and dropped their phones and sang along.

Beside me were two lovers. They were hugging each other the whole time while swaying to the music. You can tell which songs were their favorites with the way the gushed and looked at each other.

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Behind me was a barkada who wore matching concert merch and had a synchronized dance routine that they obviously planned beforehand.

When I walked to the food concessionaire, one of the food vendors had his phone on a video call—probably live streaming the concert to his significant other.

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When I looked above me at the office buildings, there were people with their hands pressed against the windows. The concert ran about two hours long, but they didn’t leave their elevated (and coveted) spots. (After all, they had what are arguably among the best views of the stage).

Different people, different contexts, but all singing along to the same songs.

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Ed starts most songs with a few guitar strums; he doesn’t dive straight into the song. And the audience–all 25,000 of us–slowly figure out which song he is leading to. It usually starts with a playful exploration, the guitar strums sounding as if they were freestyle–until the chords slowly become more and more familiar. That’s when the magic happens–that’s when the sea of 25,000 people starts singing along.

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Some people claim Ed Sheeran live onstage is just as good as he is in his song in the studio-recorded versions. That’s not exactly true, because he’s even better.