Live Review: Passenger – 26th November 2016 – Eventim Apollo, London, UK
It’s fairly safe to say that the UK has a firm love affair with folk music. While pop, indie and rock still dominate the musical arena, the UK has developed a strong sense of ownership over its folk and country exports with the likes of Newton Faulkner, Birdy and folk veteran Billy Bragg providing the British music scene with a flavoursome array of acts to call their own and show off to the world.
Another proud contender who has helped push the folk movement to the next level is Brighton-born singer-songwriter Passenger who is responsible for one of the most played and biggest selling singles of the last decade with his 2012 track, Let Her Go. The track made the musician a household name as he was selected as a nominee for the British Single of the Year at that years Brit Awards and was awarded a coveted Ivor Novello, not to mention racking up over 1.2 billion (yes, you read that correctly) views on Youtube.
Passenger – or Michael Rossenberg as his parents know him – recently unveiled his seventh studio album in the form of Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea and with the release he has taken to the road to deliver songs from the number one record, and his expansive back catalogue, to fans around the world, starting with the UK and a couple of sold out performances at Hammersmith’s Eventim Apollo in the capital.
With the headliners return to the London stage being given a gentle warm-up by sturdy support act Gregory Alan Isakov, Passenger made his way to the stage at a little after 9pm and was immediately met with a rapturous applause from the crowd who filled every available space in the circle and stalls as he jumped straight into opening number, Somebody’s Love.
The musicians signature dreamy-folk numbers settled comfortably into the Apollo’s intimate setting as he dove into his lucrative set; his trademark instrument strapped on and being utilized to its fullest extent with his bands backing letting out a slight country twang. Always ready with an anecdote or witty joke to accompany or follow a song, Passenger added to the evening a human touch that allowed fans to experience a deeper understanding of where the songs had originated from. He also offered gratitude to the crowd who packed the venue for helping get his latest studio album to number one before launching into a stunning performance of Life’s For The Living.The spritely, bearded musician also encouraged fans to get involved with his performance through clapping, stomping their feet or singing along to fan favourites like the humourous I Hate which was performed during the shows acoustic and solo mid-section. howing The darker side of Passengers humour was also on show as he declared to the venue, “you’re a racist if you don’t sing along”, which of course had the audience throwing cheers back in approval. This was one of the keys to Passengers successful performance: a cheeky swagger and an ability to engage a sold out venue seemed to come naturally for the guitar maestro.
Confessing to being a live performer where melancholy and misery dominate his sets, he showed off his uptempo side with the Paul Simon-esque Anything, exhibiting a showman capable of slow jams and tracks that get the blood pumping. It was however the ballads that put the singer-songwriters talents under the spotlight with the sentimental Traveling Alone being the most memorable of the night, partly due to the heart-wrenching story of his busking days several years ago when he met a man in Copenhagen who had lost his wife weeks before they were set to travel the world together. It was a tearjerker moment injected into the first half of the show and one that drew absolute silence from the entire venue as they clung onto every word of the songsmiths tale.
With other tracks from the musicians latest studio album showing up throughout the set including the albums title track, Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea and Everything, it was always going to be the stars biggest single, Let Her Go which garnered the biggest reaction from the crowd; almost every single member of the audience helping the musician propel his way through the Ivor Novella award winning hit with guts and soul.
As a venue; the Eventim Apollo plays host to many different types of performances but is exceptionally generous to acoustic shows by the likes of Passenger who delivered a truly captivating stage show which left fans recounting their favourite moments as they were ushered from the venue.
The fascinating and encouraging thing about seeing someone like Passenger is that it reminds you of why going to see live acts of his kind are so special. It’s almost as if we have been invited into the artists living room as they perform a raw and unedited set from the depths of their soul. Passenger was captivating from start to end, not just as a performer delivering his many hits to his fans, but as a person who’s sole purpose is to connect people through his music.