Passenger at the Vogue Theatre, 10/30/18
Few artists are able to evoke as wide a range of emotions in an audience as well as Brighton-born singer Michael Rosenberg, known professionally as Passenger, does.
On a classically rainy Tuesday Vancouver night, the 34-year-old took a Vogue Theatre audience on a journey-filled ride with lyrical poetry, touching stories, and a positive energy palpable even after he had left the stage.
Six years after the release of his global hit “Let Her Go,” the artist signals anything but slowing down. Currently touring for his album Runaway, he’s filled multiple venues and exceeded the expectations of many fans around the world. Vancouver was no exception. Rosenberg’s performance showed why tickets sold out as quickly as they did.
What makes a Passenger concert such a delightful experience and what’s probably the secret to Rosenberg’s chemistry with the audience is his humbleness. The authenticity in how he communicates made it easy to confuse such an event with an intimate social gathering. After kick-starting the repertoire with the song “Fairytales and Fireflies,” he stood in awe after a little kid’s giggle echoed inside the venue. He then warned us about the cursing that would follow and apologized beforehand.
But abiding his few ‘bad words’ was not the only thing he expected from the public. Within the first couple of songs he made it clear that he wanted the Vancouverite crowd to have fun and sing despite the widespread opinion of his songs being somewhat blue.
“Listen, I know most people say my songs are sad. I mean, yeah, most of them are pretty sad. But tonight I’m telling you we’re going to make them fun,” said Rosenberg.
He then blasted off into a vibrant performance of “Life’s for the Living” and encouraged the crowd to make up the words if they didn’t know the lyrics. With each coming song the sound intensified and every guitar change between them brought the crisp, exhilarating harmony only acoustic concerts offer.
The stage lighting contributed to the magical atmosphere that spread throughout. Unlike other concerts, this stage included no screen to show visuals or videos. It wasn’t necessary. The different color hues composing the lights matched the song lyrics in a way that’s hard to describe.
For instance, during a more emotional part of the setlist, Michael asked the fans to listen quietly to the next song because it told a very meaningful family story. He then began to narrate his Jewish grandparents’ survival during the Holocaust in an intro to the song “To Be Free.” The audience was moved by his words and the perfect combination of indigo and purple lights that contrasted his silhouette.
It’s stories like this, along with his trip experiences that enable his connection with the crowd. Midway into the show, he talked about a trip to Scotland and the man who inspired him to write the song “David.” They had shared deep conversations inside a hostel. The peak of the show included the performance of what he jokingly referred to as “his only good song” – “Let Her Go” – and covers of classics like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” and Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.”
For an artist alleged to write only sad songs, Passenger manages to spark an eclectic spectrum of feelings that ultimately represent the beautiful chaos life is.