Michael David Rosenberg is internationally know by his stage name Passenger and I was lucky enough to be able to see him last night at the Tempodrom. This article should begin with an admission: I’m a massive Passenger fan and can sing almost every one of his songs. Well, I know all the words but I sing them out of tune. The chance to see him live came up and I immediately offered to go. I was so fast, in fact, that only a weasel, dosed on Lance Armstrong’s PED’s could have been faster. Despite my excitement, there was a sense of unease that I couldn’t make sense of.
There was something that niggled at me
Passenger wouldn’t be performing solo. Now this was pretty amazing news because he recently recorded ‘Beautiful Birds’ with the UK songstress and amazing artist: Birdy. Sadly, Birdy wasn’t able to make it but Passenger still performed with a band. It was going to happen eventually – Mike has moved on from solo street busking and scrounging together loose change on the street. Would this change his performance? The best way to tell is always to get stuck in and find out.
Far too happy for a Passenger concert
After about ten minutes of the performance, the fancy lighting and smoke machines starts to get to me. The whole performance seems un-Passenger like. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m at a pop concert – any moment could announce Justin Bieber’s accompanying presence on stage. Mike seems to be sensitive to this and he sends the band off stage and performs some songs with earnest and genuine enthusiasm and passion. This is the Passenger that I know and love and I’m immediately glad that he’s back. The accompanying band were awesome but I feel that Passenger performs better when he’s alone on a stage. When he tells the audience that the concert seems far too happy, I’m inclined to agree with him.
I promise you that the misery is coming
The audience is promised some misery and, strangely, this makes me happy. It’s hard to explain but my favourite Passenger songs are the dark-folk, self-ironic tracks. Take Night Vision Binoculars – it borrows from Nabokov in blurring the line between outright creepiness and audience sympathy. By the end of the song, I’m torn between making sure this person goes nowhere near the people I love and at the same time, I want to give them a hug and tell him that everything will be OK. It’s songs like this that tell a story and the way he sings about the margins of society give these songs a dark and gritty quality. Joy of joys though, he did squeeze ‘I hate’ into his performance – I’m sorry I ever doubted him.
The misery delivered – ‘I never heard silence until I heard it today’
It takes some time but it’s worth waiting for. With the audience holding onto his every word, he tells us a story of two people he met and who moved him deeply. He’s written a eulogy to them, entitled ‘Traveling Alone’. A lady whose partner left her to be with a younger woman and a man whose wife died before she could travel the world with him. His account of these people almost moves me to tears. His eulogy to them actually brings tears to my eyes. I’m not alone – the person beside me is sobbing, as well. I feel overjoyed to know that despite the international fame, Passenger still speaks on a personal level about our shared humanity.
Sound of Silence
A live cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sound of Silence’ – honestly, this was phonic beauty. You’ll find a clip at the bottom of this article, so you can take a listen for yourselves. Treat yourselves and just take a listen – it’s really something else.
So what about the new songs?
In addition to ‘Travelling Alone’, he blessed the audience with more songs from his new album. Two great new songs were ‘Anywhere’ and ‘Young as the Morning, Old As The Sea’. They are both more upbeat that the sort of dark-folk music I’ve rambled on about but this isn’t a bad thing – it’s good to be reminded that there’s hope and happiness in the world. It’s a shame he couldn’t get the song ‘Home’ into the performance but you can’t have everything. I can’t wait for his next album, if this is anything to go by.
Well, I wish the feel was less glossy but this is a concert and not a gig in a sketchy pub in Scunthorpe. The band did a stellar job and played beautifully but I still prefer Passenger’s solo performances. I would have loved to hear him perform with Birdy and hopefully they will be in Berlin together and get a chance to play together – that really would be worth seeing! I’m not going to give it a rating in numbers – suffice to say that it was amazing. If you get the chance to see him live, definitely go along if you can.
One final note: yes, he played ‘Let her Go’, which Mike stresses, is not the track from Disney’s ‘Frozen’ and therefore it does this make him a Disney princess.
Sound of silence