Here's a tip. If you're a young man, between 18 and 24, and you're looking to meet a nice young woman, become an Ed Sheeran fan.
At the Aotea Centre on Sunday evening, of the 2000 screaming fans in the venue there were nine young girls to every guy. And the good news is, that unlike say Taylor Swift, becoming an Ed Sheeran fan probably won't hurt your male credibility. After all, he's a bit of an 'every-man', a normal looking ginger 21 year old who likes rugby (he was wearing an All Blacks shirt), and drinking (he's got a few of those 'got a bit too drunk and passed out a festival' stories to tell), he also just so happens to have a laddish English accent that makes the girls swoon, and a talent for writing upbeat songs that somehow combine folk, hip hop, reggae and pop.
He's also got a knack for getting the party started with nothing more than his cheeky charisma, strong voice, an acoustic guitar and a loop pedal board. I hadn't thought to bring earplugs for the 100 minute show, but I wish I had. Not only was the constant crowd screaming deafening, but the PA was huge, and Sheeran managed to make it roar with all the power of a rock concert as he layered up his vocals, beatboxing, guitar strums and turned the guitar into a drum kit too.
With only one album (+, which has sold platinum here in NZ) yet to his name, the setlist could have been short, but Sheeran expanded his hits with gospel choir crowd singalongs and extended raps (he's got as much flow as Plan B when he gets going), and slipped in a couple of covers too - both American spiritual Wayfaring Stranger, and Nina Simone's Be My Husband were given a surprisingly powerful, almost acapella treatment.
Their inclusion made a couple of his own songs seem somewhat less interesting (Give Me Love and Drunk), but the crowd lapped up every moment, and were particularly entranced by Kiss Me (written for his godparents wedding) and single Lego House.
When it came time for the encore, Sheeran very kindly said we could all go home for hot chocolate and Game of Thrones if we'd rather, but there was no sating this young bunch, so he obligingly rolled out a 15 minute version of You Need Me, I Don't Need You, and finished up with hit single The A-Team. Though it's hard to say whether the crowd appreciated that the song is actually about homelessness and drug addiction, they definitely appreciated Sheeran, and it's safe to say that when he returns in March next year for two bigger shows (at TSB Arena in Wellington on March 8, and at Vector Arena in Auckland on March 9) there will be plenty of young women lining up for tickets.
Who: Ed Sheeran
Where: Aotea Centre, Auckland
When: Sunday July 29