Passenger: Scenes from the Crystal Ballroom

Vortex Music Magazine

On tour to promote his latest record, 'Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea,' British songwriter Mike Rosenberg, better known as Passenger, brought Portland together for moments of emotion and laughter at the Crystal Ballroom.

Passenger at the Crystal Ballroom on March 28—click to see more photos by Veronica RosePassenger at the Crystal Ballroom on March 28—click to see more photos by Veronica RoseThe line was wrapped around the block of the building when the doors opened for Passenger’s sold-out Crystal Ballroom show. Hundreds of people began to flood in, filing up the stairs and packing the ballroom where the scenes of the night would soon play out.

As the crowd continued to come, the opening band for the night, The Paper Kites, took to the stage. With an accessible soft rock sound supported by an energetic stage presence, the Aussie band, led by vocalist Sam Bentley, mesmerized all who entered the room.

Concertgoers grabbed drinks and shuffled around to find the perfect spot on the floor, listening to the band’s beautiful harmonies and slow acoustic melodies. Songs like “Bloom” showcased the band’s open and airy folk sound paired with Bentley’s voice, described by one girl in the crowd as “celestial.”

The beauty of the opening set was a perfect introduction to the sonic world of Passenger, who came to the stage shortly after, delivering his opening track, “Somebody’s Love” (watch the music video below), to the longing crowd. As soon as Michael Rosenberg and his band took the stage, the room was captivated by his voice and magnetic presence.

Passenger at the Crystal Ballroom on March 28—click to see more photos by Veronica RosePassenger at the Crystal Ballroom on March 28—click to see more photos by Veronica RoseFollowing welcoming applause, Rosenberg addressed the audience: “If you’ve never been to a Passenger show, you know I only have one very famous song.” The room responded with a collective chuckle. “You laugh, but it’s very true. My song is called ‘Let Her Go,’ not to be confused with the Disney song ‘Let It Go.’ You have no idea how many disappointed 5-year-old girls there’ve been.”

Between songs, Rosenberg related to the crowd with ease, delivering banter that brought everyone together in moments of laughter and even rawer moments of emotion. When Rosenberg kicked off his second song, the room was in high spirits. With positive energy flowing through the crowd and up onto the stage, Passenger brought the Crystal Ballroom together in joyous chorus, echoing like a pub gathered in song. Between lines of “Life’s For The Living,” Rosenberg shouted loud. “Even if you don’t know the words, sing as loud as you can!”

Listening to Passenger on record and hearing him live are two very different experiences. Though his music tends to be more laid back, providing the vibes of a sun-soaked roadtrip, Rosenberg packs as much energy and crowd participation into his sets as possible.

Though the high-energy togetherness of the crowd was a constant throughout the night, Passenger also knew how to pepper the evening with more tender moments. At one point, Rosenberg’s band exited, leaving the singer alone for a short set of acoustic songs.

Passenger at the Crystal Ballroom on March 28—click to see more photos by Veronica RosePassenger at the Crystal Ballroom on March 28—click to see more photos by Veronica RoseIn his music, Rosenberg proves himself a masterful storyteller; but luckily for the fans, this skill isn’t only confined to song. Prefacing his emotional ballad “Travelling Alone,” Rosenberg told the story that inspired it, one of lost love, grief and the journey forward. Drowned in the silence of the crowd, Rosenberg sang softly. Over the hush of the room and the sound of his guitar, a girl wept softly. Rosenberg knew how to bring the crowd up, but he also knew how to find the rawest of emotions and break through to our hearts.

After a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” and the humorous yet brutally honest “I Hate,” the full Passenger band returned to the stage to play out the night.

By far the most beautiful scene from the evening played out as Passenger began to perform “Beautiful Birds,” a standout from his latest record. To the side of the room, children stood on the benches and perched atop their parents’ shoulders, peering through the audience at the band on stage. Everyone was drawn into the tale of love woven through the music.

The back of the ballroom met its purpose as couples took each other arm in arm, swaying to Rosenberg's beautiful melodies. As the set came to a close, Passenger once again filled the room with overwhelming joy as Rosenberg invited the crowd to chant along to the chorus of “Scare Away the Dark.” Phones and lighters shined bright, creating a dazzling array of light throughout the ballroom.

Through his music, Rosenberg brought together a full cast of characters, all watching and listening, joining together in song and sharing moments of joy, moments of sadness, and moments of love.

Check out more moments from the show in these photos by Veronica Rose!

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