Passenger – Roulette – August 4, 2016
Hailing from the Blighty seaside town of Brighton, Mike Rosenberg was born to be a singer-songwriter. Not finishing school, he spent a few years busking in England and Australia. And although his band broke up seven years ago, he continues to perform under the name Passenger. Vividly heartbreaking lyrics anchored his breakout song, “Let Her Go,” catapulting him into worldwide fame in 2012. For his upcoming fall release, Young as the Morning Old as the Sea, the Brit traveled to New Zealand to record in Neil Finn’s studio. Rosenberg was inspired by the vast landscape—and Iceland—which inspired tales of relationships and passing time. To preview his latest material, Rosenberg chose to play select intimate venues ahead of the release, and on Thursday evening at Roulette in Brooklyn, the storyteller graced a sold-out crowd. He mentioned that when his career began, he wanted to play a big venue, but now it was a treat to play a smaller one and that it was refreshing to return to a setting where people weren’t just there to hear that one hit.
Fans were feverish from the moment Rosenberg stepped onstage, opening with two from his forthcoming album, “The Long Road” and the title track. The latter elicited cheers for the ad-libbed lyric “I wanna feel a New York winter.” Throughout the performance, the audience was rapt in awe with just the creaking of the floorboards and an occasional cough competing with Rosenberg’s lilting voice. A ringing cell phone was quickly chided, and folks outside the hall echoing into the venue were greeted with a rousing “SHUT UP!” The former busker thankfully declared, “You’ve got my back.” Indeed they did. Infusing another New York City reference, he told the story of his struggle to quit smoking and encountering a man with lung cancer, which inspired “Riding to New York.”
Halfway into the set, participation was brimming as people joined in to sing “I Hate,” which delighted Rosenberg. Sadly, not everyone recognized his sly interlude of the Game of Thrones theme before he barreled into the breakout single, “Let Her Go.” To woo the singer back for an encore, fans erupted with the chorus from “Scare Away the Dark.” He did return to treat his most loyal followers with a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” and fan favorite “Holes.” Needless to say, when Passenger returns in the spring to play the Beacon Theatre, a good number of last night’s audience members will be in attendance. —Sharlene Chiu