Story-ideas-1011172

Having Sheeran for Shabbos

  • Ed Sheeran
A lone man walked onto a darkened stage, his ginger fuzz barely visible in the faded light. A solo minstrel with only a guitar and a loop machine. No flash, no backup singers, no dancers, no backing band, just a triumph of musical genius.
by HOWARD SACKSTEIN | Mar 28, 2019

This was Ed Sheeran, the one-man-band pub singer turned international singer and song-writing, superstar, who wowed 130 000 people in Johannesburg at two sell-out concert performances before travelling to Cape Town to weave his musical magic over the Mother City.

Fans carpeted the FNB Stadium wall to wall to listen and more poignantly to sing along to the lyrical balladeer. The sounds of the packed audience singing their hearts out reverberated around the stadium, sometimes drowning out the musician himself.

The night before his first performance at Soccer City, Sheeran enjoyed a sumptuous Shabbos dinner in Illovo. Wearing a black kippa, chilling with kiddush wine and Shabbos candles, Sheeran (who is not Jewish) appeared, from pictures, to be completely at ease.

Not at Sheeran’s Shabbat dinner in Johannesburg was his opening act, Passenger, who is known to his family as Michael Rosenberg. Passenger’s father is a Jewish American film-production worker Gerard Rosenberg from Vineland, New Jersey.

His mother, Jane, is a Quaker. Passenger joked with his audience that he only really has one song, but the rendition of his 2012 smash hit, Let Her Go, off his All the Little Lights album, was a spine chilling and haunting performance that rendered the audience silent.

The song reached the number-one spot on the charts in places like Germany, Greece, Israel, and Italy, number two in the UK Singles Chart, and number five in the United States on the Billboard Hot 100. It has sold more than five million digital copies.

Passenger and Ed Sheeran met while playing in a tavern in the United Kingdom, and have been close friends ever since. Both singers maintain an intimate rapport with their audiences, borne out of a history of nightly pub performances around England.

Sheeran explained to the capacity crowd that in order to make money as a struggling singer, he would often perform as a busker at house parties in London, where nine out of ten of his hosts would be South African.

His bond with the country is strong, having performed here last in December 2018 at the Global Citizens concert.

In 2018, Sheeran played to more than 4.8 million people and grossed more than R6.5 billion in tour revenue, the highest grossing tour of last year. Forbes magazine estimates Sheeran’s personal earnings in 2018 at about R1.5 billion.

Sheeran has sold more than 38 million albums and more than 100 million songs. His huge smash hit, Shape of You, has been watched more than 4.1 billion times on YouTube.

While the SA Jewish Report can’t reveal any details about Sheeran’s Shabbat dinner, one hopes for a release of his version of Birkat Ha’Mazon on his next album.

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