Image: Jarryd Seng
Passenger live in Cape Town 2019
Over the past week, Passenger has charmed South African audiences when he returned to our shores for two shows in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Michael David Rosenberg, better known by his stage name Passenger, returned to the country after exceptional response from his support slot on Ed Sheeran’s tour earlier this year. The English singer-songwriter and musician performed to a packed Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg and a sold-out Grand Arena in Cape Town. South African-American singer-songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov, who has just been nominated for a Grammy, supported Passenger on his South African tour.
Isakov opened the stage at Grand Arena to an eager audience. The venue was packed with young and old waiting for Passenger. However, much to our surprise, Isakov offered a brilliant set that had the crowd gushing afterwards. It was instantly clear why this indie-folk singer has been recognised on international stages. His set was intimate, though powerful and the perfect start to the evening.
Following a short break, Passenger stepped on stage. After a beautiful start to his set, he quickly explained that it would be just him and his guitars on stage; no band, no backup dancers and no extravagant visuals. The crowd fell in love instantly with his wit and charm. Passenger comes across as an introvert, though his stage presence and the way he interacts with the crowd is exceptional. He made it known early on in the set that the night wasn’t really going to be a happy one, as most of the songs on his set have a sadness to it. And so it was; an emotional evening. I am sure, three songs in, there wasn’t a dry eye in the arena.
Around the middle of his set, he surprised the crowd with a powerful rendition of ‘The Sound of Silence’. Everyone sat in awe, as he strummed his guitar, stomping his feet passionately. This is what makes Passenger amazing to watch; it’s just him and his guitar. Just to raise the energy a tad, he gave us ‘I Hate’, a humorous song about all the things he hates in life. Surprisingly, the Capetownians knew every word and sang along enthusiastically.
Passenger is more than just a singer and songwriter, he is a storyteller. Before and after songs, he takes time to tell a story about how each of his songs originated or simply shares a funny memory about his tours. I have rarely seen a packed venue so quiet. They clung to his every word.
Then it was time for his biggest hit to date, ‘Let Her Go’. The amazing thing about his performance of this song is that it was so beautifully imperfect; he made a tiny mistake in the middle of the song and the crowd loved him for it. It reminded all of us that nothing in life is perfect: Even one of the most beautiful sad love songs.
Passenger gave his Cape Town fans a beautiful evening. One that we can all treasure for years to come… even though, I have an inkling this won’t be the last time we see him.
Top image: Jarryd Seng