OAKLAND — Michael David Rosenberg has dedicated half of his life to singing and connecting with people under the moniker Passenger. The 32-year-old English singer-songwriter performed at Fox Theater Thursday, supporting his 2016 album Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea.
Ominous backlight illuminated Rosenberg for the majority of his songs, starting with “Somebody’s Love.” Afterward, he playfully pointed out that his biggest hit, “Let Her Go,” overshadows everything else in his songbook; he wanted to make sure everyone was at the correct concert and not expecting a Disney performance of “Let It Go.”
Rosenberg filled the time in between songs like “Life’s for the Living” and “27” with stories about his his life, sometimes returning to his hit. Before “Let Her Go,” he would busk to, maybe, eight people at a time.
“Traveling Alone” brought one of the most memorable stories of the night. Passenger’s song recalled how, one day, while busking in Scandinavia, he met an old man traveling by himself. The man and his wife had promised each other that they would travel the world as soon as their children were old enough to care for themselves, but unfortunately his wife passed away right before their big adventure. The second half of the song was about a woman who had just been left by her boyfriend for another woman, much younger than her. The two stories and two halves of the song intermingled.
At this point, Rosenberg’s backing band had left the stage, and he performed a string of solo acoustic songs, including a cover of “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel. The room got so quiet during these songs that every gentle pluck brought the audience closer to the stage. The kick drum and foot stomping would occasionally break this silence.
“I Hate,” a song about everything bothersome to Passenger, ignited a carefree sing-a-long from the entire room. Then the band returned to play “Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea,” followed by the aforementioned “Let Her Go.” Passenger followed the hit with a cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
Folk band The Paper Kites, from Melbourne, Australia, opened for the concert with a six song set. Stage lights twinkled over the musicians, creating a serene scene. They also brought stories with them, including one of when they got snowed-in by a blizzard in Canada just a few days prior.