Review And Interview: Passenger – The Deaf Institute, Manchester

Passenger by name and very much so a passenger by nature, Mike Rosenberg is an artist that brings his own style of poignancy and narrative to the singer-songwriter fold. Following a successful twelve months of touring with esteemed artists such as Ed Sheeran and John Butler Trio, Passenger again took to the road in the wake of his latest album, All The Little Light.

Originally a quintet hailing from Brighton on the English Southern Coast, Mike decided to keep the Passenger pseudonym for his solo career following the breakup of the band in 2006. ‘When the band fell apart I was thinking of just being Mike Rosenberg as that was the obvious thing to do’ – commented Mike during an interview with TFFT, before the opening show of the tour at Manchester’s Deaf Institute – ‘But something made me keep it. It just seemed to fit. The idea of being a passenger, viewing the world and soaking it all in.’

Prior to the show, it was clear that Mike was in a relaxed mood ahead of the show. ‘I like to think that my career correlates quite nicely alongside Steps!’ he joked, commenting on the separation and diversity of himself and his fellow ex band mates. It was this separation that took him from busking in the icy UK city centres to the fresh sunny pastures of Australia, the place in which his past two albums, Flight of the Crow and All the Little Lights, have been recorded. ‘I was busking round the UK in the summer. It got to October and it was freezing, I couldn’t carry on doing this. Australia seemed to go really well so I just thought why not?!’

It was a move which is proving to be a success in growing the Passenger profile; ‘I’ve been back three or four times since. Hammering the busking, hammering the gigs. It’s really working. I’m still not signed, have no radio support, but now I’ve got a loyal fan base that go to a gig and not speak, really hanging on to every word. I’m delighted with where it’s got to!’

The show itself would follow in the same light-hearted rhythm of our chat to Mike.  Amongst each heartfelt, lonesome ballad was a witty line or comedic tune. Deafening silence when he played a song, and rapturous laughter throughout the venue when he quipped afterwards; an entertaining blend of eeriness and humour.

He did not disappoint with the set list either. Plucking out the melodic classics such as Caravan and The Last Unicorn from his 2009 album Wide Eyes, Blind Love, as well as the laughter infused I Hate and The Rain. The heartbreak of Let Her Go with the inspirational Life’s For The Living and Holes were his only offerings from All The Little Lights, and a medley song of requests, cleverly intertwined with Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, completed an ably done compilation.

Despite the differences in themes of the songs, one thing that is instantly recognisable about Passenger, is his ability to tell a story. ‘It’s a simple idea that everyone understands, but you just put it into a simple poetic form. Paul Simon is a massive influence in the way I phrase lyrics and subject matter’.  A trait which continues, whether it be addressing an audience or singing into a guitar, it would appear.

In all, an entertaining show from a talented musician and lyricist, who managed to master both a sombre and comedic performance to great success.

Words by Chris Murphy
Questions by Adam Christopher West