Ed Sheeran

Hampden Park, Glasgow

Graeme Thomson, four stars

Whatever your opinion of Ed Sheeran’s ubiquity, it’s hard not to be impressed by a scruffy man and his guitar selling out the national stadium three evenings on the trot.

Sheeran’s first night at Hampden was an object lesson in how far charm and ingenuity can take you. It’s hard to say explain precisely where his popularity resides. His voice is not especially characterful, while his songs are pleasant but often bland. He’s no rapper (as Eraser proved) and the slightly naff Irish folk jig of Nancy Mulligan is no superior to anything you might hear in a dozen local pubs on a Friday night.

The key, at least on stage, is his laid-back demeanour and lack of preciousness. He jokingly called out to the bored boyfriends and dutiful dads, and told the crowd he didn’t care if they sang the wrong words or tune, just as long as they made plenty of noise. That wasn’t really a problem. Even the bleak lyrics to his breakthrough song, The A Team, were sung back at him fervently. The relentless catchy Galway Girl is already an anthem. At other times, such as the intense Bloodstream, the music did the talking, as he built dazzling layers of guitars, vocals and beats using pedals. “I control it all with my feet,” he grinned.

As the set peaked, Sheeran subverted the conventional dynamics of a stadium show. On Thinking Out Loud, Photograph and Perfect, played in sequence, the music grew steadily sparser, slower and more lovelorn, yet the energy only increased. By the time he launched into a terrific Sing, the place was in happy uproar.

He returned for an encore of The Shape Of You wearing a Scotland football top. It’s an endearing touch, but unnecessary. The match had already been convincingly won.