Passenger: Beacon Theatre 24 September 2015

I was very excited to be back at the beautiful historic Beacon Theatre to see a performer I’d only seen once years ago open up for David Ford at the Mercury Lounge. I liked Passenger so much that I sing one of his songs in my set.


Gregory Alan Isakov made a very funny observation about opening acts during his set. No other art form has something similar. For instance, if you go to see the Mona Lisa some guy doesn’t say, “Yes, the Mona Lisa is great but before you can see it you have to sit through 30 minutes of weird drawings.” Isakov’s weird drawings were pleasant enough. He’s a singer-songwriter born in Johannesburg, raised in Philadelphia, who now makes his home in Colorado. Normally he performs with a band so he said he was nervous performing just with his acoustic guitar – it didn’t show. Steve Varney did join on banjo for a few songs. At least half the audience was familiar with Isakov and his songs. Several of his songs have been used on television shows or commercials, which seems to be the way some musicians break out nowadays. I enjoyed Isakov’s set – he was personable and nice to listen to but I don’t think I’ll be running out to buy any of his music.

Passenger is Mike Rosenberg – Passenger was the name of his band and when the band broke up he kept the name for his solo act. (and it looks like he’s stopped spelling it as passEnger) His most well-known song is “Let Her Go,” which he performed and mentioned that it was his only hit. But you might also know “Snowflakes,” which he didn’t perform. Rosenberg is a British folk singer-songwriter with a regular speaking voice and (as rtb has described it) a Muppet singing voice. The voice distracts at first but once you start listening to the songs it doesn’t bother you anymore. Rosenberg can be very funny – both in his songs and in-between songs. And don’t let the description of him as a folk singer fool you – he can shred that acoustic guitar and the way he stomps on the stage he makes it another instrument. He performed two covers, which he totally made his own – “Sound of Silence” and “Dancing in the Dark.”

The audience was crazy for Rosenberg and whenever he asked us to stand or clap or sing along, we were ready and willing. On his last song before the encore had us singing “ooohs.” While the audience was clapping for the encore a small group kept singing the “ooohs” and then the rest of the audience joined in. So he came back on stage to the entire audience singing a section of one his songs back to him.

Rosenberg mentioned that the last time he played NYC was at the Mercury Lounge and half the audience cheered as if they had been there. No way would they all have fit. Now he’s playing the Beacon Theatre. He deserves the loving audience he gets.

By Carene Lydia Lopez