Ed Sheeran’s Dublin Surprise

Tuesday 21st September 2011

Ed Sheeran- HMV Live 
HMV Dublin, Grafton Street 

Sometimes you don’t have to look for music opportunities, sometimes the music opportunities will find you…when you least expect it. These rare occurrences can also become the best music opportunities you’ll witness. When I took a short trip to Dublin with some of my friends one of those very moments found us. Not only did it make the trip to Dublin ten times better, but it added a whole lot of excitement to my birthday week. 

It all started as we took a casual walk in the centre of Dublin along Grafton Street, day two of our trip. A quick decision to turn down a side street for a toilet stop and a guilt-compulsory-pint at McDaids lead to an overheard conversation. ‘There’s a long queue outside HMV’ came my friend’s impression of the Irish man behind us at the bar, queue the giggle and then my sudden pause. ‘There’s a queue outside HMV?’ I retorted with wonder as the realisation of what my friend’s unwitting impression could actually mean. Having researched the Dublin music scene before we left as Arthur’s Day celebrations approached, I’d happen to have seen a tweet from Calvin Harris saying he was in town. Suddenly putting the possibility of the two together in my head, we rushed out the pub with the curiosity of possibly seeing a queue round the corner related to a Calvin Harris signing or even a gig. We didn’t walk far and noticed the queue curling outside the store entrance and round the side of the shop, roughly 20 or so people. With our excitement built from this unlikely sight we went into the store for clues of what the queue was for and posed the question to the first member of staff we came across. Casually, he told us that the people outside were queuing for wristbands, for a gig, a free gig, a free Ed Sheeran gig, tomorrow. At hearing this information my friend and I looked at each other with the most surprised, wide-eyed faces we’d ever seen from each other. As recently new fans of Ed Sheeran and with his debut album ‘+’ currently sitting proud at number 1 back in the UK, we couldn’t believe our luck. We quickly joined the back of the queue around the 30 or so people mark reaching round the corner, whilst repeatedly telling the other how unbelievably lucky this moment was. After a 40 minute wait with the line growing more than double than that of people that were in front of us, we knew this moment of standing around in the cold was more than worthy of our time. As the queue started moving we got excited once more and with another friend rejoining us just in time, we were able to receive three HMV Live wristbands from the member of staff. Timidly, we took a wristband each from them as if it was too good to be true and that some catch was just about to strike. With the wristbands safe in our hands for a few seconds, the realisation that there wasn’t a catch and tomorrow afternoon we actually were going to a free Ed Sheeran gig, we ran out the shop in a joyous thrill, thoughts of what delights tomorrow’s gig would bring.

3.30pm in Dublin city centre soon came around the next day and with our anticipation at a high we decided this was a sensible time to head over to HMV and join the exclusive 250 wristband holders. To our surprise the queue from yesterday had not returned. We strolled into the store and showed our wristbands like we were a trio of VIPs, before stepping carefully down the stairs to the basement ‘the studio’ as if we could have been some form of secret contraband. We saw a small corner of the store had been set up with speakers, an Ed Sheeran back drop of tessellated ‘+’ album cover signs and a HMV live barrier strip, only two rows of people on the floor behind it. Sitting down crossed legged like we were school children again we had a perfect view, close up to the action that would soon occur. I took the last minute decision to buy the album at hearing word of a signing and sat back down before it was too late. The intimate setting soon filled up with a bunch of people standing at the back, a crowd consisting of 90% young Irish school girls, a few male fans and then us three all the way from Essex. Who knew that before leaving Stansted airport that this is where we would be sitting just two days later. With what must have been all 250 fans crammed in the small space that was available you could sense the tension in the room as everyone waited patiently, smart phones at the ready with terribly bated breath. It wasn’t long until screams went up signalling Ed Sheeran’s arrival. 

Swiftly moving past us with a flash of ginger hair and navy t-shirt, we sat on the floor clapping our hands with glee as he set up behind the barrier with his small, paw-printed trademark guitar in hand. Cue several girls confessing their love for him and random squeals of excitement throughout the room, Ed greets the crowd with a smile and starts off proceedings with number 3 hit ‘The A-Team’. In what has to be the most intimate setting for a gig you could ever experience, his voice gently soars through the emotional song, camera flashes and record buttons pressed by nearly everyone in the crowd. Ed is beyond friendly and keen to interact with the audience as much as possible. A flawless performance of ‘Grade 8’ follows and the connection between artist and audience couldn’t be stronger, everyone singing in harmonic unison, captured helplessly within song’s incredibly catchy rhythm. He goes on to explain how he busked and sold CDs on this very same street not many years ago as a teenager, making it clear that this gig isn’t just a big deal for us but has a lot of relevance to him as well. Next comes ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’ his current single, young Irish voices singing along with him to every word despite his intense lyrical flow. To our surprise on the spur of the moment he adds a new extra verse just as good as the original four. 

The audience clap, scream and cheer even louder as the song comes to it’s sudden close. Much to everyone’s slight disappointment Ed announces his next song will the last, but suggests if we’re quiet enough he’ll be able to do something special. Ed walks out from behind the barrier and moves into the middle of the masses, guitar in hand, and nobody can believe what’s happening. Yet more screaming as Ed finds a space for his feet directly in front us. Insisting we have to be as quiet as possible, the crowd hushes and he explains his next song is about his love for building lego. Perfect timing as someone hands him a piece of lego they’ve made with his name on. The pleasant introductory notes of upcoming single ‘Lego House’ are played and as he starts singing he conveniently spins around slowly so everyone gets the best view possible. His voice is soft yet soulful and just the same as you hear on his recordings. He conveys the feelings of his heart-felt music with every word.

As the song comes to a close the crowd goes crazy with whistles and shrieks, young Irish school girls truly swooned. Ed exits the room before returning again for an album signing. The tension returns as a manic scrambled queue of Ed Sheeran’s biggest fans shuffle around to get nearest to the front. My friends and I get our thirty second moment to meet the greatly talented 20 year old and get his scribble on our albums. 

Leaving up the stairs and out the store in disbelief of what the last hour had just entailed, we all agreed that if you ever wanted the perfect moment with a music artist then that definitely was it. We also couldn’t have asked for it to have been anyone else other than Ed Sheeran because no other artist would have made the moment as special as he did. I’ve seen a lot of live music before and I can honestly say this show managed to match the excitement I’ve felt previously seeing huge stadium tours. I think I’ll always be a music fan that prefers intimate gigs. The experience also meant that I got to enjoy a CD which became my favourite album of the year by the end of what was most possibly my best birthday week ever. But if there was one thing we are thankful for…it has to be our extremely good luck.



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