Passenger – Civic Theatre January 17, 2017


Love was in the air at Auckland’s Civic Theatre as Passenger returned to share his/their latest album with a couple thousand adoring fans.

Michael Rosenberg, aka Passenger, has been a regular visitor to New Zealand. He performed at this same venue just two years ago and in the interim, has recorded his latest album, Young As The Morning, Old As The Sea, at Neil Finn’s Roundhead studio. But his long-time fans show no sign of losing interest as they shouted exclamations of their adoration from the seats.

“We love each other”, Rosenberg exclaimed after one particularly vocal outburst from a coterie of female fans gathered at the side of the stage.

What set this show apart from previous visits was the presence of a backing band…4 anonymous musicians playing drums, bass, keyboards and guitar. They provided a rich musical bed for Rosenberg to sing his songs over without ever threatening to overpower the front man.

About half way through the show, Rosenberg proved he didn’t need the band…after all, this I a guy who spent many years busking before hitting the big time…playing solo for three songs.

The first of these three…Travelling Alone, was prefaced by a lengthy (5 minutes plus), but very moving introduction telling about the elderly Australian gentleman who lost his wife and the woman whose husband left her for a younger model, who inspired the song.

The song itself segued perfectly into Paul Simon’s The Sound Of Silence.

Then noting how quiet the audience had been, he raised a little ruckus with I Hate…”All about the stuff that pisses me off”. These include everything from “racist blokes” to “fussy eaters” and especially X-Factor, which he accuses of “murdering music”.

The audience ate it up, singing along, filling in the words as called for.

The band returned for a performance of the new album’s title track, which he dedicated, “for you, Auckland”.

After getting everyone on their feet with his breakthrough hit, Let Her Go, they stayed there for Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine and set closer, Scare Away The Dark.

That last song featured a chance for the audience to sing, “whoa, whoa” throughout and they picked up that chant again after the Rosenberg and band left the stage, still singing their hearts out when they returned for the encore.

The final two songs were the rather sombre Home and a rousing Holes that going everyone up and singing one more time.

Along the way, Rosenberg proved what a fine entertainer he is, joking with the crowd, mostly at his own expense, and telling stories here and there to heighten the appreciation of his songs.

Granted, there is nothing edgy or particularly novel about what he does, but what he does do, he does very well. After an hour and a half of experiencing him and his band live, one can’t help but be just a little uplifted.

I should also note Melbourne-based folk-rockers Paper Kites opened the show with a very pleasant set of their own.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Ivan Karczewski:

Passenger set list:

  1. Somebody’s Love
  2. Life’s For The Living
  3. If You Go
  4. 27
  5. Anywhere
  6. Everything
  7. Travelling Alone
  8. The Sound Of Silence
  9. I Hate
  10. Young As The Morning, Old As The Sea
  11. Beautiful Birds
  12. Let Her Go
  13. Ain’t No Sunshine
  14. Scare Away The Dark
  15. Home
  16. Holes