Live Review: Passenger @ The Vogue Theatre, Vancouver – December 12th 2012

It is 8 pm, the lights in the Vogue Theatre are dimmed, screams erupt. Shades of the Ed Sheeran show from early October, I thought. A young man in a sport blazer and cap appears on stage and takes his place at centre stage where acoustic guitars, and two microphones were set up (he also plays harmonica). The audience seemed to have some familiarity with Colin Bullock’s songs. I liked him. He has nice colour and clarity to his voice. The audience was super appreciative and he in turn was grateful for the support. He’s got great vocal control – doesn’t need to be right at the microphone to make himself heard. Bit of an estrogen frenzy afterwards as the first few rows tried to get a handshake or some kind of acknowledgement from the not unattractive Australian-accented artist. As long as Colin was on stage, doing ANYTHING (even unplugging his equipment), hoots and hollers followed him.

Setlist included: Driftwood, Fearless (clappy audience, used his guitar percussively), “Now I Believe In Love” (had the audience on their feet and whooping), Rattle & Bone (a cover, wee bit country in a Copperhead Road way), New York Minute (his iTunes single, audience clapped along for the chorus and a few woos for the quieter bits), Left to Right (his final song, the audience had stood for it and it turned into a standing ovation at its conclusion).

Next was Joshua Hyslop taking a turn for his half-hour (-ish) set. Again hoots and hollers accompanied him throughout his set. Audience members around me wanted to adopt him or marry him – repeated catcalls of “you’re adorable” rang through the auditorium (his mother in the audience would likely agree). His performance was unaffected by this – even with a candid admission that this was the largest house he’d ever played in front of. He has an easy manner with the audience and a sense of humour. His voice is on the breathy side, his songs are rather lyrical and for all but the last song he was accompanied by a good friend of his with a cello. Unsurprisingly, he also received a standing ovation. His is the kind of music that would be the perfect soundtrack to make a dreary, rainy day feel less dreary.

His setlist included: I Wish I Was, Nowhere Left To Go, cover of the Bob Dylan song Shelter From The Storm, a song not introduced with the lyric “I Will Wait For You”, and a cover of the Cat Stevens song The Wind which a number of people in the orchestra recorded on their iPhones.

After about 20 minutes, it was Passenger’s turn. Also a bit breathy in sound, his voice has nice resonance, with a bit of a crackle to it and really nice imagery to his music. He’s a storyteller and he tells them well, but I do have a couple of suggestions. Michael: please drop the “goes (something) like this” at the end of a song intro. It’s a cliché and it’s redundant. You know how the song goes. The audience knows you know how it goes. It’s unnecessary and even a bit awkward. You are better than that. Also, with longer sets come longer stories. The thing he’s forgetting is that he’s a storyteller – by all means, put the story in context, everyone LOVES context, but don’t tell the story and then essentially tell it again in the song. The entire house of 1,000+ people is paying attention to your every word – and, you might fit a song or two more in. The show including encore was 75 minutes in length.

The set:

  • Fear Of Fear – rather short song. Hoots and hollers for the interludes.
  • Life’s For The Living – huge audience response and singing for the chorus. I can totally imagine this as a closing song some day, when he can leave and the audience keeps singing.
  • Bullets – clappy, clappy from the audience. This is one of the ones he told the entire story as a backgrounder before repeating it to music.
  • Caravan – whistle along song for the audience (collectively, we’re very poor whistlers, but he takes it in stride)
  • Sound Of Silence – the Simon & Garfunkel song but he makes it his own. Very evocative, plaintive even, halting phrasing lends effect. The audience hangs on every pause. What the guitar plays is familiar, what he signs is his own.
  • Part 1 and Part 2 are introduced by a long story about a former girlfriend. This is one where context is useful.
  • 27 – in essence it was dedicated to the dreamers of things other people in their lives deem impossible. The house gets to their feet and this time clapping is solicited.
  • An as yet untitled song but “The Only Song I’ll Sing” would get my vote. Really lovely.
  • Feather On The Clyde – tries to imitate the trombone during this one. The audience finds his attempt funny as does Michael. The audience sings softly in the background, the soft female voice accompaniment is a nice touch to the feel of the song.
  • Let Her Go – hoots. The house stands up again and sings along full voice through the entire song, receiving solo lines for parts of the chorus.
  • Hate Song – last song of the set. Audience again sings along full voice. Michael invites audience to sing along from the beginning, and I got the impression that even people, who normally wouldn’t sing, did for this one.


  • Travelling Alone – story about people he met in Copenhagen and Switzerland told. The audience is spellbound for the song’s duration. Even the chatter in the foyer eventually stopped.
  • Holes – audience gets to their feet even before the final song is announced and they are asked to clap and sing along after they’d been ‘taught’ their parts. It was unnecessary. They already knew it.

An evening of great singer/songwriter talent. One would think it would be an evening of sameyness, but maybe that is just what I hear on the radio. The three musicians were varied and each brought something different to the stage. This wasn’t so much a concert as it was a meeting of the ‘mutual admiration society’. The audience, predominantly female or coupled up, was very receptive to the three, young, under-the-age-of-30 musicians singing about love and loss and they ate it up. Michael Rosenberg a.k.a. Passenger was most likely correct in his estimation that 98% of the people were there because he had opened for Ed Sheeran back in October, but he’s doing himself a bit of a disservice. He’s had good exposure since then, I know The Peak was only too happy to have him perform live in-studio earlier in the day and who knows how many other stations have supported his music on air and via satellite. The Vogue Theatre was the third venue for this show, the previous two smaller ones had sold out quickly and this show, too, was sold out weeks in advance.

This evening restored my faith in the singer/songwriter. In recent years, I’d disliked most of them that have enjoyed popularity and success and frankly, they usually bore me to distraction with their monotony and dross. I was beginning to wonder if I’d gone off them as a genre. Turns out I was missing quality. Tonight, I’m relieved to say I saw some of that again in Bullock, Hyslop, and Passenger. I had a really nice time this evening. Not every show needs to be a ‘dance ‘til you can’t move anymore’, ‘so loud I can’t hear myself think’ kind of night. It’s good for the soul to be able to sit back, contemplate, and watch these up-and-coming talent show what they’ve got to offer, which, as I see it, is quite a bit.


Photos © Charles-Mathieu Seguin

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