Pictures: Rain clouds clear for Ed Sheeran's 'amazing' Belfast return
Belfast fans were delighted as the sun finally came out for Ed Sheeran's massive concert at the Boucher Road Playing Fields on Wednesday.
Around 42,000 people filled the venue to watch the music superstar perform a string of hits from his extensive back catalogue - and while water-proof ponchos were at the ready they were thankfully not needed.
Following support from Co Antrim trad band Beoga, Jamie Lawson and Anne-Marie, the Shape of You singer made his way to the stage and kicked the set off with his 2017 hit Castle on the Hill.
Sheeran then quickly took the time to thank the crowd for making their way to the venue, praising his "amazing" fans for “filling the field”.
BELFAST! You looked perfect tonight 👌Goodnight & safe home. Please don't rush exiting the venue, please follow the instructions of the stewards and the PSNI. Please respect the local community on your travels home. Thank you for an incredible night 👌 #EdBelfast #EdSheeran pic.twitter.com/Bt2GrWQymp— Aiken Promotions (@aikenpromotions) May 9, 2018
He told them: “Now I know it’s Wednesday, but can we treat tonight like it’s the weekend?
“Our mission here tonight is we're gonna leave here without our voices."
Sheeran followed up his welcome speech with a string of well known tracks, including The A Team, Thinking Out Loud, and Photograph.
The 27-year-old seemed just as much at ease chatting with the crowd as he was singing and playing his guitar and often his easy-going attitude shone through in the moments he addressed his fans directly.
After challenging the Belfast audience to be the loudest he has heard on the tour so far - that title apparently was held by the people of Dunedin in New Zealand - he called for some crowd participation in waving their arms while he performed his hit Bloodstream.
"Now I know 98% of the crowd will do it, but it's the other 2% we need to talk to.
"That's the boyfriends that don't really want to be here, and the super dads who are here to make sure their kids are OK.
"I get were you're coming from, you don't want to take part and you're worried about the traffic on the way home.
"But for this next song can you just do what the rest of the audience is doing because it will look awesome."
Sheeran's request was granted as the whole field were in sync as he performed.
"This is amazing... I never played a show this big in Northern Ireland," he said.
Beoga made a second appearance on stage later in the evening as they performed alongside Ed for Galway Girl and Nancy Mulligan - and the especially loud applause and cheers offered to the local band definitely put a smile on their faces.
The five-piece previously performed with the star in front of 150,000 people during his headlining set at Glastonbury in 2017.
Finishing up his Belfast show with Sing, Shape of You, and You Need Me, I Don't Need You, a delighted Sheeran grabbed a quick photo with the crowd before expressing his thanks and exiting stage right with his fans suitably entertained.
“I think when I’m 70 I’ll be telling everyone I went to see Ed Sheeran in 2018,” said Belfast woman Verity Hamill (32). “He is amazing.”
Bangor woman Kerri Drumm (29) pronounced the concert “fantastic.”
“It’s great to have Ed Sheeran come to Northern Ireland,” she added.
Co Down fan Karla Bailey (32) cheekily admitted that she had matrimony in mind as she witnessed the English star’s performance.
“I’m here to find my future husband, and I think Ed could help me out!” she laughed.
And Bangor concert goer Melanie Latimer (37) said she had come for “good music and a dance with my friends for the hottest ginger in town!”
Sheeran will complete a string of Irish dates at Pearse Stadium in Galway from May 12-13, before finishing up at Phoenix Park in Dublin on May 16, 18 and 19.
Belfast Telegraph Digital