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Ed Sheeran at the Royal Albert Hall review: ‘The greatest British tunesmith since Elton John’

The 'Bad Habits' singer's show to raise funds for Teenage Cancer Trust proved why he's a generational talent.

By Will Stroude

Words: Simon Button; Photography: Jordan Hughes

If ever proof were needed that Ed Sheeran is a genius, his show at the Royal Albert Hall to raise funds for Teenage Cancer Trust was the case for the defence.

There are some people – many of my friends included – who don’t get what makes the world-conquering West Yorkshire singer-songwriter such a standout, but to witness him live is to witness a performer in total command of the stage and the audience.

Just ask Millie Bobby Brown, who fangirled out while introducing the last but by no means least artist to headline a week-long series of concerts that also featured Yungblud, Don Broco, Madness, The Who and Liam Gallagher.

Or Keith Lemon, Ricky Wilson, Matty Lee and Alex Scott, who were all spotted in the crowd for a two-hour set that began with ‘Tides’ (the rousing opening track from Sheeran’s new album =) and ended two-plus hours later with a banging ‘Don’t Need You’ dedicated to Jamal Edwards, who championed Ed at the start of his career.

At one point he was accompanied by a pianist but otherwise it was just the man himself up there, plus an arsenal of incredible songs that earmark him as the greatest British tunesmith since – dare I say it and shoot me down if you like – Elton John.

And Elton, for all his brilliance, was never such a virtuoso. I’m not sure of the exact technical terms but the way Sheeran plays a guitar riff, bangs on said guitar to create a beat, samples his own vocals, then loops the whole thing to establish a full-blown soundscape is jaw-droppingly brilliant.

It was all for a fantastic cause and one that needs a rally-round now more than ever. Two years of lost shows because of the pandemic mean Teenage Cancer Trust is down around £2 million in vital funds needed to support young cancer sufferers, plus there are also delays in diagnosis and the impact on mental health to factor in. It’s heartbreaking to think that every day in the UK seven young people aged between 13 and 24 are told they have cancer, which makes the charity’s work so vital.

Sheeran certainly did his bit to raise awareness and funds, putting on a stonking show that ranged across slow jams like ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and ‘The Joker and the Queen’ (sadly Taylor Swift didn’t turn up for a duet) to what he proudly proclaimed “rowdy shit” like ‘Castle on the Hill’ and ‘Bad Habits’.

He has a stadium tour coming up and promised for the first time to include a band for some of the songs. It’s a nice idea but he doesn’t need one. He’s a one-man band whose musicianship, vocal prowess, range of material and energy levels know no bounds.

Rating: 5/5

For more on Teenage Cancer Trust go to To donate £10 to the charity text GIVE to 70500