NEW YORK — Mario and Luigi rip off their mustaches and chug a cup of beer; minions from “Despicable Me” take turns getting drinks from the bar so as not to lose their spot in the crowd; a female Waldo endures a long night of “I found him, guys!” and a gingerbread man steps onstage with a guitar to croon some tunes.
If one hadn’t known any better, it would have been easy to confuse the Mercury Lounge on Halloween night with a land of children’s characters past. But upon closer inspection, one would have realized that these zany characters crowding around the small stage were the 200 fans lucky enough to gain entry to debatably the hottest show of the night, and that gingerbread man onstage strumming his guitar and working that loophole like it’s nobody’s business was none other than Ed Sheeran.
Returning to the venue that housed his first-ever New York City gig 18 months ago, Ed waddled his best gingerbread man waddle onto the stage, greeted the crowd with a humble hello and went right into one of his earliest songs, “She.” The crowd let out an audible gasp of excitement before singing along to every word; opening with such a throwback meant that this Halloween night would be filled with way more treats than tricks.
While recapping the entire night would be a personal pleasure for us, we’ll settle for presenting the top five memorable moments — and trust us, this was a painful elimination process.
Pajamas and Beer
Sorry to say, but the gingerbread man gimmick lasted a total of one whole song. Ed quickly stripped himself of the oversized head and body, promptly tossing them into the crowd for fans, and revealed his shaggy ginger mane, a burgundy thermo sweater and plaid pajama pants. He explained that when he first tried on the costume, he had been wearing his pajamas and thought it was comfortable, so he wore the same ensemble for the show.
The “Lego House” singer also expressed his excitement about the fact that he could actually drink at this show — why perform at a lounge without the perks of a bar, after all? He took hefty gulps of his beer between practically every song. At one point the crowd chanted “chug, chug, chug!” and Ed accepted the challenge without a second’s hesitation. When his third cup of beer came, and the crowd began the chant again, Ed replied, “Do you want me to play the gig or throw up?”
We don’t think we have to describe the alcohol-fueled happiness that erupted once Ed sang “Drunk” off his + album, but we will say that when fans sang along loudly and, well, drunkenly — this was a 21+ event, after all — Ed said proudly, “Yeah, sing that sh– out!”
If the costumes, the beer or the pajamas weren’t enough to prove that this show would be like no other Ed Sheeran show, the lack of a set list did the trick. Ed told the crowd that he hadn’t planned a set list for the night, nor did he know how long he was supposed to play.
“I’m just gonna sing until I’m kicked out,” he said to a crowd that had no problem with that. In fact, fans even shouted out songs they wanted him to sing.
Ed took this opportunity to play songs he hadn’t performed in quite some time. Tunes such as “Cold Coffee” and “One Night” were among those chosen, and they got perhaps the loudest cheers.
New Songs But No Recording!
The “A Team” singer graced the ever-so-grateful fans with not one, not two, but three new songs — we actually only just recovered from the cardiac arrest brought on by our happiness. He did have one condition, though: no recording!
Ed made the lounge filled with 200 people promise not to record the new material, even warning that “there are ways to track you down” if you do. But the singer had nothing to worry about when it came to his loyal fans. In fact, we’d never seen phones and cameras get stuffed into bags, pockets and bras faster at a concert than at that moment.
He first sang “Forever,” a song he said he wrote while on a beach in Malibu at 4 a.m. It’s a love song, but don’t worry — Ed laughed off questions about it being about good friend Taylor Swift as soon as a handful of fans screamed it out.
Next up was a song dedicated to new love in the great city of possibility: New York. Written in the Big Apple, “New York” talks about Ed not wanting an evening with a friend at a bar to end until “night turns into morning.” This song wasn’t the only time in the night that the singer gave a shout-out to New York City. Ed mixed Lil’ Kim’s “Lighters Up” while singing a crowd favorite, “Grade 8.”
The third new song — and we’ve got to admit that by this point, we were looking for the nearest wall to hold us up because we’d been weakened by excitement — was “Tenerife Sea.” He said he wrote it with a good friend while in Nashville, and it speaks of a girl who looks really pretty in her dress. “Forever” may not be about her, but if you ask us, a song about a girl in a dress might very well be about Taylor Swift.
Freestyle Sessions Galore
Ed Sheeran is known for his smooth but fast rapping, and while he definitely did not disappoint on that front, he displayed major freestyle skills onstage, too. And with the Mercury Lounge being such an intimate venue, this moment went from great to amazing for a few lucky fans.
During the throwback “One Night,” the singer not only spat bars that awed the crowd, but he also called fans to the stage to spit some verses, too. The two fans called upon were definitely starstruck at first, but with encouragement from Ed, they let some sick lines fly.
He also showed off his freestyle skills during “You Need Me I Don’t Need You.” But when he wasn’t wowing the crowd with off-the-dome raps, Ed called another fan to the stage to harmonize “Lego House” with him.
Singing in the Middle of the Crowd
For the last three songs of the night, Ed played in the center of the room, surrounded by his fans. This decision was evidently a whim because there was no amplification in place in anticipation of such a move. In fact, the singer asked the crowd if they wouldn’t mind not singing along so that everyone could hear him and so he wouldn’t strain his voice.
Once in the center and standing on a stool “incredibly drunk and trying not to fall,” Ed crooned his biggest hit to date, “The A Team.” The acoustic session turned the intimacy level up ten notches — something we didn’t think possible — and made the show even more amazing.
He closed out the show with one of his best friend’s songs, Foy Vance’s “Guiding Light,” which he’s featured in. He and the crowd sang the last line “when I need to get home, you’re my guiding light” a minimum of 15 times, and tears from emotional — or really drunk — fans were shed.
Ed Sheeran is in the midst of playing three sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden and will kick off his promo tour early next year.