Ed Sheeran needs to be careful what he wishes for. Early in his new concert film “Jumpers For Goalposts” -- which will be screening at select movie theaters via Fathom Events for 4 days only beginning on October 22 -- Sheeran confesses that his last five birthday wishes have all come true, his most recent being a goal to play Wembley Stadium. Next February 19, he might have to go big and hope for world peace.
“Jumpers For Goalposts” is a fascinating look at Sheeran at the precise moment when he transforms from popular singer-songwriter to one of the biggest artists on the planet. Covering his three-night stand at London’s Wembley Stadium on July 10, 11 and 12, Sheeran admits prior to the first concert that he’s “sh*tting himself” with nerves before playing in front of the largest audience of his career. By the third day, he says that “I never want to do a gig that isn’t this again.”
He may never have to. Sheeran’s X Tour -- which has been rolling virtually non-stop since the release of his platinum-selling album X in the summer of 2014 -- has been one of the most successful of the year, both commercially and critically. A big part of that is thanks to a risky bet that paid off. Although his studio albums are polished and densely layered, in concert it’s just Sheeran, an acoustic guitar and a loop station.
The fact that he can command the stage completely alone while performing in front of 60,000 fans testifies to his star power, but Sheeran’s live shows are truly unlike any other major pop artist. The minimal set up forces him to alter the song’s arrangements so he can build them piecemeal, from the percussion off of the guitar to the vocal harmonies to the basic guitar melody.
Watching the film, it’s a process that’s as impressive as it is unforgiving. Songs like “Don’t” and “Bloodstream” sound markedly different in concert but the raw arrangements spotlight Sheeran’s songwriting chops. This is especially apparent on ballads like “I’m a Mess” and his smash hit “Thinking Out Loud,” a song so romantic it apparently triggered a marriage proposal in the stands during his second night at Wembley.
Elton John turns up about halfway through the film as a surprise guest on a cover of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and his kinship with Sheeran is evident, as both artists borrow liberally from a variety of styles while rooting their music in a traditional pop structure. For Sheeran, that means incorporating hip-hop into many of his songs, which he does effortlessly (Sheeran is an absurdly talented musician, but for a red-headed Brit, his rapping skills might be his most impressive talent).
“Jumpers For Goalposts” is heavy on Wembley performance footage but it also provides a fascinating glimpse into the 24-year-old's casual relationship to fame. Sheeran’s ascent to the highest level of music stardom took place largely while he was on tour and although his ambition and confidence are evident, he and his longtime road crew mostly come off as nonplussed about success and celebrity.
Ultimately, “Jumpers For Goalposts” is best enjoyed by those who have seen (or missed out on seeing) Sheeran in concert, yet it’s well-made enough to please casual fans, or even skeptics. As evidenced by his past five birthday wishes, it’s Ed Sheeran’s world now, we all just live in it.
“Jumpers For Goalposts” will screen for 4-days only at select theaters starting October 22. Watch the trailer above; for more information on where you can catch the film, visit the Fathom Events website.