It’s always a pleasure to see Passenger, AKA Mike Rosenberg. The English-born artist, who attracts just as much attention busking out on the streets as he does at sold-out venues, is touring across Australia before returning to support fellow Brit Ed Sheeran during the North American leg of his world tour.
When Rosenberg steps out onto the stage with just one acoustic guitar, he seems truly gobsmacked at the amount of applause he receives. “I wasn’t sure how it would go just because I haven’t got a new album out,” he says. “I’ve been blown away by the crowd and how many people have come down. Australia is my second home, it’s wonderful.”
With little urging, we belt out the lyrics to ‘Holes’ and the crowd favourite ‘I Hate’ – and those of us who can whistle try to do so as loud as possible during ‘Caravan’. Having asked his Facebook fans to pick the setlist, Rosenberg’s put together a good mix of old and new. There are songs from the 2009 album Wide Eyes Blind Love, tracks off the most recent album, All the Little Lights, a couple of new songs and covers of the Simon & Garfunkel classic ‘The Sound of Silence’ and Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’.
The covers are particularly intriguing as they’ve been tweaked with the signature Passenger style – slightly folky acoustic arrangements that bring out the songs’ subtleties.
Not only is Rosenberg a sharp lyricist when penning his own tracks, but he has great guitar chops to boot, and when he steps away from the microphone to strum and stomp, we can’t help but be a little mesmerised. When the guitar stops and it’s just his voice ringing out over a completely silent crowd, the intimate atmosphere is heightened.
On stage, Rosenberg is as charming as ever. In between songs, he tells stories cunningly designed to make you laugh or cry – and either way you can’t help but feel as if you’re old friends. There’s dead silence when he tells us about an elderly man he met in Denmark who was travelling the around world alone, on a trip he was meant to take with his wife before she passed away. This story is half of the inspiration behind the new track ‘Travelling Alone’.
It doesn’t matter whether you see him busking on a street corner or performing on a stage, Passenger’s imaginative, story-telling lyrics and beautiful melodies never fail to impress.