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Ed Sheeran vs. Damien Rice - Live in Concert

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In July I went to see Damien Rice in concert in Paris, and in September I attended Ed Sheeran's show in Dallas. I wasn't expecting these two gigs to have a lot in common with one another, but they did. So I decided to write down the similarities, the differences and... my appreciation for both as they each delivered a magnificent (dare I say, magical) evening !

Let me start out by stating the obvious... both artists are incredible singer-songwriters with on top amazing capabilities to connect with the audience and deliver great live performances which really stand out - which each of them definitely did:

  • Damien Rice on July 20th 2015 at Le Grand Rex in Paris - France. A historic venue - and with 2800 seats the largest movie theater auditorium in Europe. Opening act was 'Mariam The Believer'.
  • Ed Sheeran on September 5th 2015 at the FC Dallas Toyota Stadium in Frisco (Dallas), Texas - USA. A huge venue (According to Ed his biggest American venue to date), surely not engineered for music concerts, but the sound was very good and the stage setup had plenty of video arrangements. Support act was Christina Perri - and oh yes, I missed Jamie Lawson who was added last minute to the concert line up

Similarities...

Both Ed and Damien are true singer-songwriters - they write most of their own songs, both music and lyrics, and put an enormous amount of personality in their songs. They could play great covers (and they do mix it up during their act), but they don't have to - they have so much great own material that making the setlist selection is not trivial and doesn't leave a lot of room to integrate covers (and why would they).

Both of them appeared all alone on stage. No band. No support musicians. Just them and their guitars (and in case of Damien a series of other instruments depending on the song). Both of them used their voice as instruments, and added human beatbox elements to the songs.

It didn't take long in each concert before they used a major hit... Damien Rice opened with Cannonball (likely his greatest hit of all times in France), and Ed's second song was Lego House. They didn't need to save big songs for the encores - but they had plenty left by the time they got there.

Both of them extensively used loops to build up the songs, and put layer on top of layer - and made it feel like there was a full band on stage. And both succeeded magically in that. In fact, sometimes you just wonder if all the sound bites were recorded live as they played - but they clearly were. And impressed all.

Both of them called their opening act on stage for just one song together. Both times it felt more like an obligation than an opportunity. It definitely wasn't a highlight in either show.

At both events there was a good crowd (the Damien Rice concert was actually officially sold out), however, there were plenty of tickets available at (affordable, discounted) prices the days before the event and at the door.

Differences

Damien Rice used the loops to build up the songs, amplify their impact, and support the song. He didn't overly use loops in most songs, but in some of them they clearly were defining the song. He never pointed out the technical side of his performance. Ed used them extensively in each and every track, making it as obvious as possible to the audience, even explaining it - almost to make a point and impress the audience. At some moments of the show, I did miss the simplicity of his records - where you would think you would experience almost the opposite when he shows up all by himself on stage.

Ed Sheeran made sure that all his well known songs in the US were included in the show - make sure the please the audience and maximize the jukebox effect. The fact that The Blower's Daughter was missing from Damien Rice set in Paris was just astonishing.

There was no video wall for Damien. In fact, there were hardly any lights. There was plenty of stuff to divert your attention away from Ed Sheeran - huge video screens with real-time video effects and mixed in pre-assembled clips. Which of course also limited the amount of spontaneous changes Ed could make throughout the set.

Ed Sheeran came out of the gate at full strength - like he had already done a round of songs before getting started. Damien Rice was looking for his voice and finding it throughout the first song. You could hear it getting better as he moved along.

There is a true rapper in Ed Sheeran. In fact, he ensures you know that throughout the concert. He's a jack of may trades. Damien Rice is who he is - you get what you see. No surprises. No distractions.

Who knows why Christina and Ed did "Be My Forever" together... It wasn't the greatest moment of the show, and it didn't get to the "Jar of Hearts" Christina level - neither the "I See Fire" milestone from Ed. Miriam's moment on stage with Damien resulted in her best performance of the evening, lifted up by Damien's backing, but never coming close to any of the songs he performed all by himself.

My conclusion

There is no doubt that Damien Rice's performance will stay with me much longer than Ed Sheeran's concert - the venue, the intensity, the interaction with the audience, and overall the feeling that the evening in Le Grand Rex was a unique event just for us, not to be repeated again and again over the next weeks and months. This can easily be illustrated by comparing the various set lists from Damien's summer concert tour - which shows significant differences in the choice of songs as well as the sequence (and the fact that the audience does get to pick a number of songs). Comparing Ed's set lists for his 2015 concerts quickly results in an exercise to try to spot the limited differences.

Then again, Ed Sheeran does target the masses and the Billboard charts, and in that category, he is a truly amazing artist - able to impress friend and foe, and deliver all by himself a great two hour concert. But a smaller venue would be so much better (note that the Dallas concert was not sold out... the box office was still selling face value tickets and there were plenty of discounted ticket sales in the days before the event).

Comments welcome... plenty of space at the bottom of this page !

Set List

Set list Damien Rice's great magical evening in Le Grand Rex, Paris - July 2015

  1. Cannonball
  2. Older Chests
  3. Volcano
  4. Elephant
  5. The Professor & La Fille Danse
  6. Trusty and True
  7. I Remember
  8. The Greatest Bastard
  9. Long Long Way
  10. Coconut Skins (asked by public)
  11. It Takes a Lot to Know a Man

Encore:

  1. My Heart (Wildbirds & Peacedrums cover) (with Mariam The Believer)
  2. 9 Crimes
  3. The Box (unplugged, asked by public)

Set list Ed Sheeran's playing at the FC Dallas Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX - September 2015

  1. I'm a Mess
  2. Lego House
  3. Drunk
  4. Take It Back / Superstition (Stevie Wonder) / Ain't No Sunshine (Bill Withers)
  5. One
  6. Photograph
  7. Bloodstream
  8. Tenerife Sea
  9. Don't / No Diggity (Blackstreet)
  10. I See Fire / Feeling Good (Nina Simone)
  11. Be My Forever (with Christina Perri)
  12. Dark Times
  13. Kiss Me
  14. Thinking Out Loud
  15. I Was Made to Love Her (Stevie Wonder cover)
  16. The A Team

Encore:

  1. You Need Me, I Don't Need You / In Da Club (50cent) / Know Yourself (Drake)
  2. Sing

References

You can find the dynamically updated concert set lists at setlist.fm for Damien Rice and Ed Sheeran @ Setlist.fm.

Read more on Wikipedia about Ed Sheeran's rise to fame and Damien's Rice's career !

Credit for the artwork @ DeviantArt.com - click the images for full credits and a link to the great original artwork.