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Ed Sheeran - "Subtract" Plus Numerous Fan Favorites Adds Up to a Riveting and Revealing Night at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Once a struggling artist and now a global superstar - Ed Sheeran has come up with a winning equation for his summer tour. The formula is "+ - = x Tour" (pronounced "Mathematics Tour") plus the "Subtract Tour" which equals an amazing experience for fans to see Sheeran in a stadium and/or hear him perform at more intimate venues. Hence, Sheeran's standing-room only stop at the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee on July 21, 2023 was a revealing plus riveting concert.


Ed Sheeran was warm and personable as he got up close and personal in Music City.

Ed is on the road in support of his latest record the soul-baring Subtract. He wrote and recorded this fourteen-track opus with Aaron Dessner (of The National). It is a personal album addressing grief, hardships and hope. Sheeran realized that Subtract's more serious subject matter might not work as well in the party like atmosphere of a big arena show.

So, he decided to play the new material from smaller stages in places where people could really listen to and perhaps benefit from Ed's experiences. In a number of cities, he is scheduled to appear at a theater one night and a stadium the next. This calculated approach is proving to be a winning formula.


This mural was seen near the Ryman Auditorium to help celebrate Ed's big week in the city.

Despite being the smaller show, Ed still had a sizable setup at the Ryman that included a full band with a string section. Sheeran took center stage and opened with the single "Boat" which was sung a cappella due to minor technical difficulties that would strike a number of times in the night. Ed handled the potentially capsizing crisis with grace as the show got under way with even more intimacy than anyone expected right of out the gate.

Throughout the opening set the audience attentively hung on Ed's every word as he talked about and played all the songs from Subtract. Ed advised those going to Nissan Stadium on Saturday that they would be experiencing a different format from Friday's show as there would be no fireworks shooting off inside the Mother Church of Country Music.

At the Ryman, Sheeran shared that in February of 2022, a close friend of his died suddenly. Ed went into a period of deep mourning and many of the tracks from Subtract reflect that. He talked about being glad that he was in his 30's when he was dealing with this as he realized that he had friends who had lost significant people in their lives in their teens or earlier which was the inspiration for "Life Goes On" and a bit later "End of Youth". He would also sing about his wife facing cancer while pregnant with their second child and thankfully he was able to report that both are okay today!


In addition to being a chart-topper and a global superstar - Ed is a world class looping specialist.

On a lighter note, he said that he has a beautiful baby girl - their eldest child - who he shares a special breakfast routine with. Apparently, they have a sizable collection of vinyl at their home. His daughter runs her hands along the shelf full of records and where she stops is the album they listen to as they eat porridge. The selection of Dusty in Memphis led Ed to pen "Dusty" with the idea of controlling the moment or in that case treasuring the time with his child.

"Colorblind" was a moving tribute to his parents who like many have had their share of trials but prevailed. "Curtains" was also a powerful piece of prose dealing with depression and a person who helps you through it. "The Hills of Aberfeldy" was the last song of the exhilarating equation.

After the algebra of Subtract the show took an easier turn. Ed's solo formula included a lesson in looping as he demonstrated how he uses this tool to layer beats, guitar parts, keys and additional vox that all tallied together to prove without a doubt that he is a world class master of this creative skill. Fans were on their feet to sing and clap along to a multiple of hits that included "Perfect" and "Bad Habits". The Ryman faithful passed the test of knowing all his lyrics. Sheeran's one-man-band segments were engaging and led us to a greater appreciation of his expressive vocal style and on the fly musical accompaniment.


These lucky cities got the extra special and more intimate "Subtract" shows plus a stadium gig.

More than once, Ed said that the Ryman was one of his favorite places to play. He took full advantage of his return to the venue and the opportunity it presented by requesting that people put their phones away. He wanted to try out a few tunes that he had not performed before as a special tribute to this hallowed space. Fans remained just as attentive to these new tracks as they had to Subtract. After thanking his crew and fans Sheeran ventured out into the audience and played unplugged for the last two songs. As patrons gathered closer for the parting shots Ed performed "The Parting Glass" - a traditional cover - and "Afterglow" which left the sold-out crowd at the Ryman glowing.

Ben Kweller opened for Ed at the Ryman. Ben is also apt at the one-man-band idea as he played all the instruments on his 2006 self-titled album. At the Ryman, a local multi-instrumentalist added varied accompaniment to Ben's muse. Kweller is well respected for creative originals such as "Run" and "Full Circle" that were rich reflections on relationships. Ben closed his set with "American Cigarettes" which had a catchy hook that folks quickly picked up on.


Ed ventured out into the crowd for his last two songs at the Mother Church.

Kweller is scheduled to open for most of Ed's theater shows but Ben got a bonus gig when the act who was supposed to play Nissan had their flight cancelled at the last moment. So, Kweller - barely able to contain his excitement - disclosed how Sheeran had just texted him to ask if he was available to fill in the slot for the stadium concert on Saturday. In near disbelief, of course, Ben said yes. Talk about Nashville magic!!!

SETLIST: Boat | Salt Water | Eyes Closed | Life Goes On | Dusty | End of Youth | Colourblind | Curtains | Borderline | Spark | Vega | Sycamore | No Strings | The Hills of Aberfeldy | The A Team | Shivers | Thinking Out Loud | Perfect | Bloodstream | Shape of You | Bad Habits | Encore | Castle on the Hill | Crashing In Head And Heels | Magical | The Parting Glass | Afterglow


Ben Kweller got to play on Friday and Saturday night in Nashville.

Related Links: For more information on ED SHEERAN and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Ed Sheeran | Ben Kweller | Ryman Auditorium


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