Will it be seven in a row for Sheeran?

If Ed Sheeran man­ages to sell out seven shows on Satur­day, it’ll be a game-changer

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

The lat­est episode of the Ed show airs on Satur­day morn­ing when hun­dreds of thou­sands of tick­ets will go on sale for Ed Sheeran’s 2018 Ir­ish tour. It’s a big and am­bi­tious ask, with seven out­door shows in a row, in­clud­ing two dates at Dublin’s Phoenix Park, which is get­ting back into the gig­ging busi­ness after four fal­low sum­mers.

How­ever, the act, pro­moter and the var­i­ous mid­dle­men in­volved in putting a deal like this to­gether ob­vi­ously think the de­mand is there to war­rant sup­ply of this kind. There are even some gaps in the sched­ule if ex­tra dates are called for.

There are prece­dents for a na­tion­wide ex­cur­sion of this scale. Back in 2013, reg­u­lar Ir­ish visi­tor Bruce Spring­steen de­cided to get out of Dublin 4 and played five shows in Lim­er­ick, Cork, Belfast and Kilkenny in­stead.

It was a fan­tas­tic way to cap­i­talise on ram­pant de­mand to see the star, cre­ate a new story and en­sure more Bruce­ma­nia.

Though he’s a much younger buck, Sheeran also has form when it comes to the big days out in Ir­ish fields. His brace of shows at Dublin’s Croke Park in 2015 demon­strated that one man, a gui­tar and a loop sta­tion can pull quite a crowd. De­mand for his re­cent ap­pear­ances at the cap­i­tal’s 3Arena were also signs that Sheeran is a very big deal.

An in­ter­est­ing aside about next year’s Ir­ish tour is the fact that Sheeran ap­pears to be blank­ing Cro­ker. It turns out that the point­less and tire­some rounds of ridicu­lous and un­in­formed spec­u­la­tion from click­bait mer­chants and badass bookies about Sheeran play­ing there in 2018 were all wide of the mark.

It’s not that Sheeran has a prob­lem with the GAA: he’ll be giv­ing a few bob in rental fees next year to Cork’s Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Galway’s Pearse Sta­dium. But his de­ci­sion not to play at GAA HQ at a time when the venue could be avail­able raises some in­ter­est­ing ques­tions.

Per­haps a del­e­gate might ask some of these ques­tions at the GAA Con­gress next year. Just what is the story with big gigs at Cro­ker? Does any one pro­moter get first dibs on the venue? And if so, how much is this deal worth?

The real barom­e­ter of Sheeran’s stand­ing is just how many of the shows will sell out straight away on Satur­day morn­ing. A pro­moter wants to en­sure that a gig or tour opens as strongly as pos­si­ble so they’re not left hold­ing thou­sands of un­sold tick­ets. The last thing they want to do is re­sort to a ra­dio ad cam­paign on the scale of the ones un­leashed to try to flog tick­ets for Dublin out­door shows by Phil Collins and Neil Di­a­mond.

How­ever, next year’s tour is about more than just sell­ing tick­ets. It’s also an im­por­tant step in es­tab­lish­ing Sheeran as a long-term fix­ture. Many acts have done well for a cou­ple of years, but it’s rarer to come across some­one who sets them­selves up for long haul.

Changes in the mu­sic in­dus­try’s method­ol­ogy are partly to blame for the sta­sis around de­vel­op­ing and es­tab­lish­ing new, fresh head­lin­ers.

To date, Sheeran has demon­strated plenty of song­writ­ing and live per­for­mance skills and it’s paid off well for him. The next step is to show he in­tends to be around for quite some time to come.

Sell­ing out seven big Ir­ish shows on Satur­day will go some way to prov­ing that.

Next year’s tour is about more than just sell­ing tick­ets. It’s also an im­por­tant step in es­tab­lish­ing Sheeran as a long-term fix­ture

JIM CARROLL

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