Review: Ed Sheeran in Auckland
ASB Theatre, Auckland, April 30
The spotlight glided across a dark stage, picking up flecks of dust and smoke in its glow, then focused on a man with a mass of red hair in a black T-shirt and jeans.
He walked across the stage and toward a microphone with an acoustic guitar slung over his shoulder.
Without a pause or acknowledgment Ed Sheeran then belted the intricate verse of You Need Me, I Don't Need You to a sell-out crowd at Auckland's ASB Theatre.
He was in the country for a one-off, free show promoted by online radio station iHeartRadio and 2degrees last night.
Excited fans spilled out from their seats into the aisles as the English singer used only two tools - his voice and guitar - to create a haunting and eerie atmosphere.
My thoughts of a simple show, judging by the lack of accompanying music, were quickly banished.
Sheeran used a looping station to create layers in his songs by recording and playing beats one on top of the other.
Powerful sounds were produced simply by Sheeran slapping his guitar so hard he broke a string.
The audience was treated to a collection of familiar songs like Lego House and The A Team from his 2011 album, +.
It was also a chance for him to showcase tracks from his latest album, x, which will be released on June 20.
Sheeran doesn't look like a typical pop star, but the tattoos adorning his arms suggest there's an edge to him.
His boy-next-door image is something he makes light of in one of his new songs with the lyrics "I'm a singer you'll never see shirtless". The audience laughed with him.
Sheeran's vocal range is impressive. He can rap hip-hop-like verses accompanied by beat boxing. He can wail in eerie tones.
There's also a folk-like presence to his tunes and there's no doubt the 23-year-old can sing.
A clear crowd favourite was I See Fire - a track written for Peter Jackson's latest Hobbit film, The Desolation of Smaug.
As Sheeran heard the echo of his fans mirroring his lyrics word for word, he paused to let us finish a verse and a humble smile spread across his face.
It seemed he was still coming to terms with the influence he had on fans.
Admittedly I've been known to flick stations if I come across a certain few Sheeran songs on the radio, but I was blown away by how he executed them live.
Give Me Love, in particular, was performed with such an eerie and haunting wail, I felt goosebumps prick at my skin.
Midway through the song, Sheeran was reduced to his knees as if he'd forgotten he was playing to an audience.
He thanked us all by saying New Zealand was his "favourite place in the world and I'd live here but would have to go through the citizenship process".
I think it's likely he'll be back.
Sheeran then disappeared into the shadows backstage without an encore and as quickly as he had appeared.