I’ve been lucky enough to see Ed Sheeran at both an amphitheater and an arena over the years. Each time, it was shocking to watch one guy, a guitar, and a loop pedal captivate tens of thousands of people. No flashy dancers, moving set designs, or distracting background graphics; just Ed and the hits that ruled the airwaves and playlists.
Last night, Ed took the stage at Gillette Stadium for the second of two back-to-back nights in front of 70,000+ fans for his +–=÷× Tour, better known as the Mathematics Tour. After Saturday, the Foxborough venue became the place he’s performed in the most in the United States in addition to being his first-ever NFL stadium. Little Big Town was the surprise Night 2 opener after John Mayer kicked things off Friday night, taking Khalid’s place following a car accident.
Unlike many other stadium tours that put the stage in the end zone, leaving an unusable chunk of seats behind it, Ed’s circular stage was erected right on the 50-yard line, giving everyone in the open-air venue a clear view. Above the stage was an enormous 360-degree screen, flanked by six angled poles with additional guitar pick-shaped screens. Even if Ed — one guy, a guitar, and a loop pedal — was too small to see from the farthest seats, the inventive screens helped keep the whole crowd connected.
What a weekend with @edsheeran!
Were you at either night of the #MathematicsTour in Foxboro?
Reply with your favorite photos/videos! ↓ pic.twitter.com/cnhFldKjfW
— Gillette Stadium (@GilletteStadium) July 2, 2023
Although Ed was partially joined by a backing band and the extensive use of pyrotechnics (in a stadium show, why not?), it was still a quintessential Ed Sheeran show. He introduced his loop pedal to concert goers who might not be familiar. He played the guitar effortlessly while commanding the entire stage, reminding everyone that he’s earned his place as a bestselling solo male artist through true talent and musical mastery.
Ed’s most recent album, – (Subtract), came out not even two months ago. A darker, sadder album in his discography, Subtract explored difficult topics like grief, depression, illness, and death. On the Mathematics Tour, four songs made it onto the set list from Subtract, sprinkled in to slow things down briefly and give the crowd a chance to catch its breath.
Ed also took on many of his collaborative tracks by himself, including “BLOW” without Chris Stapleton and a mashup of his parts of “River” (Eminem), “Peru” (Fireboy DML), “South of the Border” (Camila Cabello and Cardi B), “I Don’t Care” (Justin Bieber), and “Beautiful People” (Khalid). It served as a testament to how many chart-toppers Ed has put out over the years with other chart-topping artists.
The show finished with an enormous encore of some of Ed’s biggest beats: “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” “Shape of You,” and “Bad Habits.” With a 24-song set that included only one cover (Justin Bieber’s 2015 hit “Love Yourself,” written by Ed), the Mathematics Tour was an emotional roller coaster through Ed’s musical legacy.