Ed Sheeran told Saturday’s record-breaking crowd at Lincoln Financial Field he doesn’t have any hobbies, but after his tour through Philadelphia, it looks like he could easily pick up a new one: making cheesesteaks.
The globally famous British singer-songwriter turned up Saturday afternoon at Philips Steaks on West Passyunk Avenue, where he delighted fans and staff by trying his hand at prepping the signature Philly sandwich.
“The line stretched, oh my God, maybe two blocks,” Joseph Baldino, who owns and operates the cheesesteak shop with his brother Philip, told Billy Penn.
“When his team reached out, I actually thought it was almost a joke,” said Baldino, who described himself as a “huge fan” of Sheeran’s. “We are 40 years in business, but this is the first celebrity of his magnitude.”
The singer’s star power may have drawn hundreds to the cheesesteak shop — Baldino didn’t get an exact count — but it drew many more to the South Philly sports complex.
Sheeran’s show was the most heavily attended concert at the Linc, ever: 77,900 people, per Eagles spokesperson Alli Waddington. That edges out U2’s July 2011 concert, which attracted 75,796 fans.
Sheeran, who also performed a smaller Friday show at the Met on North Broad, has been making surprise appearances in his tour cities, like a brewery in Atlanta and a school in Tampa.
“It’s just a fun thing to do on a Saturday,” Sheeran told Buster from Q102’s Bex and Buster. “I’ve got the whole day before the stadium gig and I just like doing surprise things. It’s fun.”
Sheeran advertised his Philips appearance on his Instagram story shortly before he arrived there.
The original plan was for him to do a live performance there, according to Baldino, who said the singer’s people reached out earlier in the week. But the event morphed into a cheesesteak-making lesson and fan meet-and-greet instead.
Sheeran made just one cheesesteak himself, per Baldino, but ended up buying sandwiches for the hundreds who came by.
A formula for winning Philly’s heart
Sheeran showed love to the city early in the show, and his announcement to the audience that he’d enjoyed a cheesesteak for lunch was met with cheers.
As he talked about how incredible it was to be performing in the Eagles’ stadium, at least one member of the crowd yelled out “E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!” and another sang a snippet of “Fly Eagles Fly.”
He later told the crowd it was the loudest he’d encountered so far on this leg of his tour, and at another point, he recalled that he may have written Justin Bieber’s hit song “Love Yourself” while he was in Philly.
“This is a song that I wrote in 2015,” he told the crowd. “I think it was in Philadelphia … I remember getting, you know like the feeling of the cheesesteak, you know when you’re just like, when you have a cheesesteak lunch, you’re like, ‘I don’t need dinner. Or breakfast.’”
During his encore set, Sheeran donned an Eagles jersey, as he sang radio hits “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” “Shape of You,” and “Bad Habits.”
The singer-songwriter, who’s apparently a wiz wit guy, looks to have left a good impression after showing local love during his two days in the city.
“He was — I can’t stress this enough — so down to earth, wonderful individual,” said Baldino, of Philips Steaks. “He was signing people’s guitars and sneakers and T-shirts. And he was just such a wonderful man.”
The Philly corner of the internet seemed to express approval of Sheeran’s approach to visiting the city, too. One member of the “South Silly” Facebook group wrote, “even Ed sheeran knows where to get a good cheesesteak !!!” while a Redditor remarked, “Somehow, someway, unbelievably so, Ed Sheeran is a real one.”
“How is it possible?” wrote throwawaitnine. “A world famous celebrity comes to Philly and buys cheesesteaks for everyone. It isn’t Pat’s or Geno’s, it’s Phillip’s! Lol, I am now in love with the shape of Ed Sheeran.”
No empty sections
Sheeran’s record-attendance Linc show came 10 years after his very first performance at the venue as an opener for Taylor Swift, and 5 years since the first (and most recent) time he headlined a concert there.
Sheeran isn’t a stranger to breaking records. His ÷ Tour, held from 2017 to 2019, holds the world record for the most attended music tour in history, with over 8.8 million tickets sold across 255 shows performed in 6 continents, 46 countries, and 175 cities. Three of those shows were in Philadelphia — two at Wells Fargo Center in 2017, and one at the Linc in 2018.
That same tour ranks second on the list of highest-grossing tours, bested only by Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour.
Sheeran performed his 27-song +–=÷x (“Mathematics”) Tour set on Saturday night from a rotating circular stage in the center of the field, surrounded by a general admission pit that filled most of the floor.
Although not every single seat was filled, the 360° setup meant that spectators could be seated in every section of the stadium. That’s different from many concerts, where the stage is situated at one end of the venue and several sections of fixed seating aren’t available for use since they’re behind the stage. U2’s 360 Tour had a similar setup (hence the name).