Gig review: Passenger

17:21 28 October 2011

Passenger

Passenger

Archant

Discover the heartfelt songwriting of Mike Rosenberg, AKA: Passenger

Summer last year. A couple of weeks before the Folk Festival. My wife came home clutching a CD, and gushing about a busker she’d seen in the Market Square in Cambridge. He was, confusingly, called ‘Passenger’ – an oddity for a solo performer, and she wanted to go see him at a gig that night.

Unfortunately, I talked her out of it. Then the next day when I listened to the CD, ‘Wide Eyes – Blind Love’, I regretted it deeply.

Passenger once were a five-piece band throwing out lyrically heartbreaking songs set to a discordant backdrop of ‘80s synthetic pop. Then the singer/songwriter behind the outfit downsized and went solo, and it was he, Mike Rosenberg, AKA Passenger, who we’d missed.

One benefical spin-off of Passenger’s downsizing is that now you get to hear the same warming, heartfelt lyrics of the genius that is Mike Rosenberg, but without all the synthesized pops, bangs, and drum beats that came before. A Passenger gig now is just Mike and his guitar, on stage with a bagful of wonderfully beautiful songs. Those of you who saw him play at The Den at this year’s Folk Festival will need no more convincing.

Last night Passenger captivated his audience at Emmanuel United Reform Church on Trumpington Street. It was the final night of his UK tour before he heads out to Australia for six months, and he truly was breathtaking.

Two support acts warmed the audience up for Mike. Son of Eagle, an excellent threesome from Derby would have been worth the ticket price on their own, while Ethan Ash really wasn’t my thing at all, but he’s obviously popular in his home town of Cambridge.

Mike’s set was full of poignancy and drama, taking us from the delight of a new song about the rain in the UK (Mike’s from Brighton by the way, so he’s on our side over this!) to some of his older, and it has to be said, incredibly sad offerings including ‘The Last Unicorn’, ‘Two Tales’, ‘Caravan’, and ‘Golden Thread’. The whole set was simply lovely. Beautiful songs, well-crafted, perfectly executed, and performed by someone who is so obviously and without any doubt simply a really nice bloke.

I know there are millions upon millions of people out there with good taste in music who have never heard of Mike Rosenberg or Passenger. He doesn’t get much in the way of publicity or air-play, but if you are one of those people, now there really is no excuse for your ignorance. You can even listen to his stuff for free on myspace.com/passengerofficial. And remember, he’s in Oz for six months, which by my reckoning makes it about March/April time when he’ll be back touring over here. Now put that in your diary! Hopefully, Hope Street Music, who brilliantly organised this gig and arranged for the use of this great venue, will make sure we get Passenger back here in Cambridge in the spring. In the meantime keep an eye out for more great acoustic gigs from Hope Street at myspace.com/thelivingroomlive.

Graham Uney

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