On a perfect Friday night, I was treated to more than my fair share of fantastic bearded singer-songwriters. Passenger and Stu Larsen amazed with their respective one-man shows, and The Once also astounded earlycomers with incredible Newfoundland songwriting.
Stu Larsen, a great friend and longtime touring mate of Passenger’s, showcased various tunes from his just-released record “Vagabond” including King Street, San Francisco, and Thirteen Sad Farewells. Larsen showcased vocal and falsetto talent similar to that of James Vincent McMorrow and Justin Vernon, with songwriting similar to Passenger’s own in terms of chord and song structure.
The Once took the stage very soon after, and if they hadn’t told us that they were from Newfoundland, Canada, I would honestly have thought they were from Ireland. Brilliant songwriting, fantastic three-part harmonies and beautiful lyricism, seen most prominently in “By The Glow Of The Kerosene Light”, shone brightly throughout The Once’s set, left the pumped-up audience wanting more, and left me wanting their new record.
At long last, at around 9:45 PM, Mike Rosenberg, AKA Passenger, took the stage. I had listened to most of his studio work prior, though admittedly while doing other things, so I still didn’t know what to expect. However, I did know that it would be a one-man show, and I wasn’t sure whether this would work in his favor. The second the crowd began to echo Passenger’s every word, I knew he would have no time commanding this audience.
Right off the bat, Rosenberg insisted that the Philly area was something of a second home, with his father being from Vineland and his cousins living in the area as well. He was also incredibly thankful of the reception Philadelphia gave him this time around, noting that when he played World Cafe Live Upstairs, he played to about fourteen people, and now he’s playing sold-out venues like the Electric Factory. Both of these stories worked wonders on the crowd, and they were shouting back at him and getting quiet whenever he asked.
My personal favorite moment of Passenger’s set was the song “Riding To New York,” and the story behind it. The story involved a grandfather with lung cancer, which Rosenberg had met in Minnesota, and this grandfather’s journey from the West Coast to the East Coast, because he was unsure of how long he had to live. Other highlights of the night included the song “Twenty Seven” and “Patient Love,” which featured incredible participation from the crowd, and a spontaneous “Eye Of The Tiger” cover. As soon as I left the Electric Factory, I immediately filed Passenger under the category of “artists significantly better than the song that made them famous.” This man is more than a songwriter; he’s a storyteller, and was a friend to every member of the crowd. Check out photos below!