You’ve probably heard of this guy called Passenger; his single Let Her Go was one of the biggest songs of 2013, and was not only a hit on the charts but across the world. He followed up this success with his critically acclaimed fifth album, Whispers, released in 2014. Yet long before he was internationally famous, Mike Rosenberg spent his time travelling the world as he busked, wrote songs and played in pubs. Passenger’s new found fame still allows him to do all these things, only now he’s selling out shows in much bigger venues. I went along to Passenger’s Whispers tour show in Hobart, Tasmania, to see what the singer-songwriter had in store for us.
Passenger’s supporting act was Rosenberg’s longtime friends The Once. They say a group is only as stong as its weakest link and man is this a strong trio. Not only do the Canadians all play multiple instruments, they all have strong voices that combined to create gorgeous harmonies. Geraldine, Phil and Andrew certainly left an impact on the audience as they made their way through tunes from their latest album Departures. Highlights included a cover of Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling In Love and the catchy but lonely Fool For Love.
Then it was time for the man himself. Mike strolls onto the stage, guitar in hand, as the audience cheers in delight and likely amusement. It’s never the same seeing someone in real life as it is in a photograph, is it? With a scruffy beard and ‘obnoxiously tight’ pants, the extraordinarily thin singer is a far cry from those expecting boyband perfection in this modern music era. But this only adds to his charm and Passenger quickly wins over the silent audience with a touching rendition of Rolling Stone. After a quick chat he then changes pace with a sing-a-long to Life’s For The Living and changes up The Wrong Direction with a mashup of the 90s classic What Is Love.
No one can doubt the passion that Passenger brings to his music. Whether it be a heartwrenching cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence or an upbeat folksy tune in the form of 27, Passenger’s playing could almost be described as manic at times. Foot stamping on the ground and his head shaking wildly, the lyrical genius quickly sweeps the audience up into his musical bubble. One of Passenger’s most extraordinary talents is the way that he tells a story, and it’s impossible to describe the depth of emotion felt in the theatre as Riding To New York was played.
One thing the audience wasn’t expecting when they travelled to the Theatre Royal that night was to find themselves laughing just as much as singing. With his dry wit and sarcastic humour, Mike Rosenberg has an abundence of bad jokes and isn’t afraid to use them. Passenger’s anecdotes about travelling, life and performing may be everyday life to him, but his delivery of them filled the hall with laughter. Talking about yoga with hand movements, how Glasgow booed salad and how he once dreamt of gigantic dancing cigarettes were just some of the random tangents that were discussed. I Hate proved to be a highlight of the night; not only did the audience know every word, but every now and again Passenger would stop to tell us just why he hated that particular thing, with audience members occasionally chiming in.
Of course another highlight of the evening was Let Her Go; even those parents/siblings/partners that had been dragged along to the concert and didn’t really know what was going on knew the words to this tune. It created a truly magical moment as every single person in the theatre sang along to such a bitter sweet song. Scare The Dark Away was a poignant number where audience members were asked to put their phones away and to truly live in the moment as they stood and sang together. The hook the audience sang rang on long after the song had finished and Passenger had left the stage; such a rare moment that he was sure to be proud of. He returned for an encore, including a number with his friends The Once, and finished with the vibrant and almost as well known single Holes.
Those people heading along to one of Passenger’s shows around Australia and New Zealand over the next few weeks should brace themselves for a one of a kind show. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll sing and you’ll be taken on a musical journey few artists could boast to achieve.
Oh and one last quote from the man himself: “I don’t want to give anything away, but you’ll be hearing lots of new music this year…” *the audience gasps excitedly* “oh shit I’ve just ruined the surprise now, haven’t I?”
That’s right: Passenger is releasing new music, possibly a new album, THIS YEAR. And we just can’t wait.
Life’s For The Living
The Wrong Direction/What Is Love mashup
Riding To New York
Sound of Silence (cover of Simon and Garfunkel)
Coins In A Fountain
Underwater Bride/Eye of the Tiger mashup
Let Her Go
Scare The Dark Away
Medley with The Once (included Brown Eyed Girl/Dancing In The Dark/Go Your Own Way/Sha la la la la)