When the news broke that Ed Sheeran was going to play at Laugardalsvöllur in August, Icelanders broke a national record, buying over 30,000 tickets within minutes. Keep in mind that 30,000 is 10% of the nation. Sena Live, the organisers, promptly added an extra concert that sold around 20,000 more tickets over the next few months. Overall, 15% of the Icelandic population went to back-to-back Ed Sheeran concerts during the second weekend of August. I know, it sounds like something you would read in The Onion, but trust me, this really happened.
Red hair and loads of talent
Ed Sheeran has an obvious and unprecedented star attraction among foriegn performers in Iceland. He is one of the biggest pop artists in the world, with a different kind of flair than the rest of them. He goes onstage in a jumper, without a band or dancers behind him, armed with just his red hair and loads of talent. It’s incredibly simple.
Sheeran established himself as an Icelandic sweetheart when he posted a picture of himself sporting the Icelandic national football shirt back when Iceland was facing its nemesis, Croatia, at the 2018 World Cup. (Iceland still lost.)
I, Valur Grettisson, decided to go to the concert with my 11-year-old son, Ólafur Grettir. Both of us like some of Ed’s songs, but we also loathe others. My favourite is “Bloodstream,” while Óli likes the sugary pop stuff—not all of it, though. In true 11-year-old fashion, he made that crystal clear beforehand.
So both of us weren’t really sure what we were walking into, but as soon as we did walk in, we were greeted by the longest queue we had ever seen in our lives. It started at Laugardalsvöllur and ended somewhere in another district of Reykjavík. The queue actually made headlines in the media with guests questioning the management of Sena Live. That said, Sena quickly fixed it, and took the criticism to heart afterwards.
The field of Laugardalsvöllur, which we use most often for football, was unrecognisable—now a full blown rock and roll stadium. It was an impressive setup.
The first opening band we saw—unfortunately, like most of the guests in line, we missed Zara Larson—was James Bay. His most famous song is the dreamie folk pop, “Hold Back The River.” James had a full band to back him up and presented a pretty decent poppy/folky concert. It could have been more energetic, sure, but it was a nice warm up for the flamehaired wonder.
Punctual rock star
You know that times are changing when the star of the night does not only show up exactly at the advertised start-time for the show, but actually comes on-stage one a minute ahead of schedule. Yes, just a minute before start time, the audience could see Sheeran walking towards the stage on the huge screen. It was a magical moment, and revealed that punctuality is also one of many Sheeran’s great talents.
Then, Ed started off with a bang. The crowd cheered. He was completely alone on stage, yet easily captivated the 30,000-strong crowd like it was an intimate bar setting. And how exactly does one man captivate the attention of such a massive crowd for two whole hours with but an acoustic guitar in hand? Well, with some kind of a pedal, apparently, that he used to record the beats and back up voices, which he sang himself, and then play back as he went along. This man has a black belt in troubadourism. And then some.
Sheeran started off slowly and connected well with the crowd. The slow setup was hard for some audience members, though, as the temperatures dropped as the sun went down. But boy, things picked up in the second half. He blasted us with his sugary pop songs, which were surprisingly tolerable when played live. Within minutes, the whole crowd was jumping and cheering.
Not the best, but we’re getting there
The concert itself didn’t really enter the hall of fame of live entertainment in Iceland, but it was exactly how Sheeran appears to be: honest, fun and relaxed. One could even think that this guy was, in some ways, an interesting reflection of this small nation, who always believe that a small amount of people can accomplish incredible things. Sheeran even pushed that point, singing his biggest hits dressed in his famed Icelandic national football shirt.
Overall, the concert was a smash hit. The audience loved it, and Sena Live’s preparation was exemplary, despite the hiccup with the line. It also proved that Iceland is more than ready for any huge artist to visit us in the future.
If the Grapevine would give out stars—which we don’t—I would give the concert three and a half stars out of four. There is still room to do better, but overall, darling, he looked perfect that night.
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