Ed Sheeran showed his versatility in a crisis on Saturday when he stepped in as his own opener after a lineup shakeup.
The 32-year-old singer–songwriter was set to go on stage hours later at Maryland’s FedEx Field, the home of the Washington Commanders, until his opener Khalid was involved in a car crash that prevented him from performing.
Faced with a sizable chunk of unfilled time at the start of the show, Sheeran — who recently earned over $18 million for a two-night run at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium — opted to be his own opener.
In videos captured by fans in the crowd, the hitmaker explained that his 25-year-old tour mate wouldn’t be able to make the show.
‘He is recovering, and we wish him the best,’ he said in one video showing him on his round stage before he launched into a special set featuring songs that wouldn’t normally have been part of his main show.
Last-minute fill-in:Ed Sheeran, 32, performed an earlier opening set to his headlining show on Saturday after his original opener Khlaid, 28, was in a car crash
Replacement musician: ‘[Khalid] is recovering, and we wish him the best,’ he said in one video showing him on his round stage before he launched into a special set featuring songs that wouldn’t normally have been part of his main show; seen June 6 in Manhattan
‘I’m going to say this after every song because if people don’t know who was going to be the opening act today, people are going to be walking in being like, “This show isn’t what I thought it was,”‘ Sheeran joked to the crowd. ‘”I thought there would be more fireworks.”‘
Video of his opening set show that the stands are sparsely filled compared to how they would have been during the main act, and latecomers planning on skipping Khalid’s set missed out on the special opportunity.
He performed a variety of songs from his latest album, — [Subtract], which was released in May.
One of the special songs that is not part of his usual setlist was Sycamore, an autobiographical track inspired by his wife Cherry Seaborn’s battle with cancer while she was expecting their second child.
After including the few remaining Subtract songs that made their way into the headlining setlist, Sheeran performed nearly ever song from his latest release.
However, his first performance lacked the theatrics of his main show, putting the spotlight firmly on his vocals and acoustic guitar playing.
But playing in the open-air stadium was a treat for Sheeran, who seemed excited to have a little daylight remaining when he hit the stage.
‘Usually when I start playing, it’s like pitch-black and now I get to see everyone. It’s awesome,’ he enthused to the crowd. ‘This is pretty fun.’
Because the set was an extra treat for fans, he admitted that there was less ‘pressure’ on him.
‘I kind of feel like when you’re the main act, there’s a bunch of pressure because people have paid to see you but I feel like when you’re the opening act you’re sort of like, “Let’s have fun. Let’s play songs,”‘ he mused.
Getting back to opening for gigs — even if they were his own shows — also gave Sheeran a blast of nostalgia for his early days a struggling performer hoping to make it big.
‘I used to open up for people a lot when I was like 16, 17, 18,’ he recalled, before instantly dating himself. ‘And it was in the time of MySpace. I used to have cards that I would give people: “Check me out on MySpace, MySpace.com/EdSheeran.”‘
Stripped down: Sheeran joked that some fans would be disappointed by the set because they expected more ‘fireworks’
Special treat: He said he enjoyed playing while the sun was still out, and he ran through several songs from his latest album Subtract that he would not have normally played
Those were the days: Sheeran had a blast of nostalgia and remembered working as an opener as a teen, when he handed out cards for his MySpace page; seen June 6 on the Today Show in Manhattan
Before wrapping up his impromptu set, Ed reiterated that he was keeping Khalid in his thoughts.
‘I just want to say, before I introduce this next song, that I really hope Khalid gets well soon and that he’ll be joining us in Boston,’ he added.
Although Sheeran naturally gravitates toward stadiums and outdoor amphitheaters because of the massive crowds he draws, part of his Subtract Tour is being held at small theaters, including for his next tour stop.
He will perform in Boston at the Boch Center Wang Theatre on June 29, with Ben Kweller set to open.