Photo by Johnny Au Courtesy of The AU Review
Passenger with The Falls and Stu Larsen
17th August 2012, The Hi-Fi
The last time I saw Passenger play was in an overflowing tent at last year’s Peats Ridge Festival. Since then he’s released a new album (All The Little Lights) and toured Australia in a series of sold out shows before heading to Europe for the Northern summer. But now he’s returned to our shores (reportedly to work on a brand new album) and while he’s here has embarked on a winter tour which includes some of the biggest venues he’s ever headlined. Which is exactly why I found myself lining up in the cold at Sydney’s Hi-Fi to catch the second of six Passenger dates around the country.
Supporting Passenger this time around were Stu Larsen and The Falls, both of which I reviewed for a show earlier in the week and probably don’t need much introduction to Timber and Steel readers. I do have to say that it was a pleasure watching both artists play to the 1,000+ capacity venue (although it would have been nice if the doors had opened early enough and the line had moved fast enough to catch the start of Larsen’s set) and hopefully both of them earned some fans on the night.
At Peats Ridge I was lucky enough to see Passenger perform both as a solo artist and with a full band. While I like the bigger sound associated with Passenger’s backing musicians my preference has always been for his solo work. So I was elated when Mike Rosenberg walked on stage with just an acoustic guitar and started singing.
And what can I say? The man is not just an incredible songwriter, he’s also one of the most humble, charming and charismatic performers going around. His self deprecation is genuine, as is his humility, and the way he engages with his audience through his between song banter just helps you connect with his music that much more. It would be easy to come out of a Passenger gig feeling as though life is not worth living – misery is his stock and trade – but the way he talks to the audience between songs and even explains the circumstances under which they were written humanises his lyrics, turning the negativity into a sort of communal catharsis.
Having already toured All The Little Lights in April Passenger was intent on showcasing music from his entire back catalogue this time around and had asked fans to send in their requests via social media (the way Rosenberg interacts with fans on Facebook should be 101 for anyone studying social media engagement). What we were treated to were tracks from almost every album including a couple of newbies. Making his way through recent tracks like “Let Her Go” and “I Hate”, older tracks like “Golden Thread” (peppered with a little of “Girl From The North Country”) and a great cover of Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” I feel Passenger managed to cater to fans both new and old – the couple in front of me sung along to each of the songs from All The Little Lights and spent the rest of the set commenting on how they needed to get ahold of Passenger’s other albums.
And while I loved every minute of set I selfishly wished he’d played a couple more of my favourite songs. I needn’t have worried though – for an encore Passenger sated every one of my musical cravings performing the gorgeous and heartbreaking “Caravan”, his famous cover of “The Sound of Silence” and “Holes” which is just sensational live – down to the fact that it involves the audience singing along at the top of their lungs.
It’s easy to forget that the crowd at the Hi-Fi was the largest Mike Rosenberg had ever played to as a headliner, so comfortable was he with his audience. It was also easy to forget how echoey the space in the venue can be as the crowd was pin-drop quiet for the entire set (except of course when they were required to sing). But this is the magic of Passenger.
Wednesday 22nd August – The Rosemount Hotel, Perth, WA
Thursday 23rd August – Fowlers, Adelaide, SA
Friday 24th August – The Hi-Fi, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 25th August – The Waratah Hotel, Hobart, TAS