It’s been four years since Ed Sheeran performed on the Emerald Isle and no one, it seems, was more excited about the Mathematics Tour than the star himself.
“I haven’t done this for so long. I’ll keep saying it, but I’m so happy to be here,” Sheeran told a packed crowd in Croke Park on Saturday night.
“I haven’t played in this room for seven years. I had forgotten how mental an Irish crowd could be.
More than 160,000 people were expected to attend Sheeran’s sold-out concerts in Dublin this weekend.
The sun shone as the first half of them infiltrated Croker on Saturday, excited for the first full-capacity gig at the stadium since 2019.
The stage offered a 360-degree view of the action, with pick-shaped screens hanging overhead for those further up in the stands.
After a long countdown, relatives managed to catch a glimpse of the man of the moment before the screens rose above him.
It was clear from the start that this show would be flashier than Sheeran’s previous gigs, complete with a band, a revolving stage and flames.
“I wanted to try something different because I feel like I’ve used a loop pedal for the past 15 years,” he explained.
“But don’t worry, we’ll get back to the pedals now. Everything you hear tonight is completely live.
The math will see the British singer perform a total of ten gigs in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Belfast as he embarks on a year-long global journey.
With his paternal roots going back to Wexford and Belfast, the decision to throw it all in Ireland was a natural one.
“I sold out my first show in Ireland in 2011 and have been there many times,” Sheeran told the crowd.
“Four times a year when I was a kid, then I played in Galway. I played Vicar Street, then Olympia, then 3 Arena and whenever the crowds got more mental.
Shortly after, all the torches in the stadium were lit as Sheeran sang his first big hit, The A Team.
As the title suggests, the tour is based on an amalgamation of Sheeran’s albums, all of which are named after mathematical symbols. Beginning with a number of new hits from his 2021 album Equals, Sheeran quickly moved on to old favorites including Castle On The Hill, You Need Me, I Don’t Need You and, of course, Galway Girl.
The crowd jumped on each one, as Sheeran commanded the entire stadium, most of the time with nothing but a loop pedal and a guitar.
As always, it was in the quieter moments that he really shone. Diehards hollered as the top picks of “Bloodstream” began, while a Don’t/No Diggity medley was also met with particularly loud cheers.
There were tears, countless screams and thousands of smiles throughout the two hour performance.
To be fair, the mood has been set for 4 p.m., with equally impressive performances from opening acts Denise Chaila and Maisie Peters. Chaila held the crowd in full swing, raising morale early on with her captivating vocals and energetic band.
“My name is Denise Chaila and I’m from a county called Limerick,” she said midway through her performance, holding up a signed Limerick GAA shirt from her back pocket.
“If you take anything from tonight, it’s to love where you’re from.”
“I missed that,” I heard an audience member say to his partner later that night, just as the final chords of The Parting Glass sounded after 10 p.m.
It felt like normalcy had finally returned to the capital, and looking at the crowd, it was hard to imagine any performer who would have been more excited to bring the music back.
“I don’t think we could have started this tour anywhere else,” Sheeran said before the night was over.
No doubt he will bring the same magic to Cork on April 28.