After the release of his twelfth album, Songs for the Drunk and Broken Hearted, Passenger (Michael Rosenberg) treated fans to a web stream performance from London’s Royal Albert Hall on 10 January 2021.
Casually dressed in a black shirt and grey jeans, strumming a guitar while sitting on a chesterfield, he launched the special event with London in the Spring from the new LP. Upon its conclusion, the camera followed him backstage and onto the stage where he performed a short set of predominantly new songs peppered with some classics. Standing unaccompanied on Royal Albert Hall’s stage, steeped in history, and among the memory of artists and crowds past, Rosenberg immediately set the tone for the thoughtful, earnest, and melancholic ten-song set that followed.
Life’s for the Living from All the Little Lights (2012) was a walk down memory lane before The Way that I Love You, Sword from the Stone, A Song for the Drunk and Nothing Aches Like a Broken Heart, all from Songs for the Drunk and Broken Hearted (2021), were shared. The moody Survivors from Runaway (2018) followed and was complemented by a shifting colour pallet from reds to blues and greys to suit the lyrics: “Well the bridge is burning/ And the wheel keeps turning/ Quicker than it did before/ Your heart screams “yes”/ Your head says “no”/ And you’re never really sure”.
Suzanne, the final inclusion from the new LP, was shadowed by fan favourite Let Her Go (All the Little Lights, 2012), while Scare Away the Dark from Whispers (Part 1) (2014) aptly concluded the set. Taking into account the state of play in the world and the new normal of lockdowns, masks, and social distancing, it was a timely reminder to: “Well, sing, sing at the top of your voice/ Love without fear in your heart/ Feel, feel like you still have a choice/ If we all light up we can scare away the dark”.
Having built a career on descriptive storytelling and distinct vocals each Passenger song tends to follow a set formula. However, the one-notedness of Rosenberg’s sound is noticeable when banter and a live atmosphere are eliminated. To shift the attention away from this, the film, because it is a film of a heavily edited pre-recorded live performance and not a live performance, utilised a handful of monologues that discussed The Royal Albert Hall, music in general and what inspires Rosenberg. While it is insightful, it is also disappointing as his performance should be enough to sustain interest for forty-five minutes. In fact, with no backing band as a support, the former busker does successfully hold his own. It is just a shame producer and director James Tonkin and Rosenberg as executive producer himself could not see this or have the confidence to create something that highlighted it. Nevertheless, eternal fans were sure to be delighted by the experience.
Live Review By Anita Kertes