Ed Sheeran is about to hit New Zealand with the biggest tour we've ever had - a massive run of six stadium shows in Auckland and Dunedin. I got a sneak preview in Melbourne so you know what to expect.
Ed Sheeran played a near two-hour set completely devoid of the dance troupes, fireworks or aerial stunts other artists are taking on tour. Instead, it was just him, his guitar and a loop station on stage and the fans totally loved it.
He opened with his hit Castle on the Hill with quirky graphics on floor-to-ceiling screens, laser lights and a folk-pop equivalent of a bass drop, which seemed over the top until I realised there was actually a moshpit forming at the front of the stage.
Sheeran took a moment to greet the crowd and explain how his live performance works with the loop station, before launching straight into Eraser, leaping around the stage rapping before bringing things back down again with his ballad A-Team, during which he had everyone light up their phones for a classic concert moment.
This is the secret behind Ed's live gigs, and maybe even his success in general. People just want to feel like they're part of something and that's what he delivers. During songs which are slow and run the risk of being repetitive, he has the audience join in clapping, singing or dancing and it instantly picks up the mood again.
There was a sing/clap-along to New Man, he encouraged everyone to sing until they lost their voices to songs like Dive and had everyone wave their arms in time to the pulse beat of Bloodstream.
Sheeran even took a moment for the people who "don't really want to be here", acknowledging the fact that he's not everyone's cup of tea saying, "I accept this", but imploring the boyfriends and "super dads" to get involved anyway. It was humble and just funny enough to work.
Everyone was on board as he continued, giving a raucous performance of Galway Girl - which was as close to a banger as the set got - before a beautiful cover of Nina Simone's Feeling Good mashed up with I See Fire, complete with stunning falsetto, and then a subdued sing-along to Perfect.
Sheeran is undeniably talented and it's hugely impressive what he can do with just his voice, guitar and loop station and that simplicity is part of the appeal. On the way out, I heard fans marveling at how down to earth Sheeran was, how he didn't need all the smoke and mirrors; his talent was enough.
Well, that and a well-planned set. After all the balladry and singalongs, the set ended with Sing, Shape of You and You Need Me so the final songs were upbeat, raucous and doused in flashing lights, leaving everyone feeling elated.
Of course, it's not for everyone and not everyone will get it, but that's okay. This is very much a tour for the fans. From what I heard and saw as we walked alongside them, soaked in sweat and tears, they couldn't have asked for anything more.
Ed Sheeran plays Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium, March 24, 25, 26 and Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium on March 29, 31 and April 1.