Concert Review: Passenger @ The Sound Academy

The usually desolated Docks was a hub of ‘too much at once’ this past Saturday night. Road closures due to a marathon, Reggae Festival in parking lot and a concert at Sound Academy. Yep, ‘too much at once’!

Traffic lag made me miss most of Stu Larsen’s set. The bearded long-haired Aussie impressed at his last Toronto show in May, and his new album “Vagabond” is worthy of multiple listens. Fret not, he will be back in October, is how I consoled myself.

Who needs instruments when you have voices like that? The Once, trio from St Johns, dropped several literal and metaphorical jaws with stirring three-part harmonies acapella as an intro. Lead by the jovial female vocals of Gerry Hollett, the band played modern folk with Celtic flavors. If their earnest nature and extraordinary musicality wasn’t enough to win you over, perhaps a heartwarming cover of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love” would have melted your heart.

An awkward Englishman playing melancholic songs. That is partially true when describing Michael Rosenberg aka Passenger while listening to him on albums. The live setting is a polar contrast. There is the detailed backstories of the songs, consistent love for the crowd and the expect dry British wit. Toronto also didn’t hold back in their screams and flirty whistles to keep up the dynamic mood of the evening. This wasn’t Michael’s first foray into playing big rooms solo. The long time troubadour saw meteoric rise in fame courtesy of the 2012 worldwide smash “Let Her Go”, which ended up in middle of the set to my surprise. Thankfully, the crowd knew the words to the other songs as well like “The Wrong Direction” and “I Hate”. The mellower gems off Whispers, the new album, such as “Riding to New York” and “Hearts on Fire” resonated equally well as the hushed room respected the quietness of the tender songs. The good behavior was rewarded as Michael threw in covers of Haddaway’s “What is Love” and Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and homage to The Boss with a rare cover of “The River”.

Often, the current music audience gets criticized for being too demanding -it takes a lot to keep them interested. Last Saturday, all it took was a husky voiced Brit with a guitar to engross a room of thousand and more. Talent will always win.

Review by Nilabjo Banerjee |

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