Guest review: Passenger at the Eventim Apollo

On a cold Friday night, English singer-songwriter Passenger warms our hearts with a night of story-telling, amazing covers and extraordinary support by Gregory Alan Isakov. 

Just a little over a month ago Passenger released his newest and eighth studio album Young As The Morning Old As The Sea and last week he played London’s Eventim Apollo with a magical set. With an exceptional opening performance by Gregory Alan Isakov, the evening was everything we hoped for and more.

Just a little over a month ago Passenger released his newest and eighth studio album Young As The Morning Old As The Sea and last week he played London’s Eventim Apollo with a magical set. With an exceptional opening performance by Gregory Alan Isakov, the evening was everything we hoped for and more.passenger-2

Gregory Alan Isakov was born in South Africa and later immigrated to the US as a child. The singer-songwriter was heavily influenced by the likes of Leonard Cohen, Kelly Joe Phelps and Bruce Springsteen, and usually tours with a full band so opening by himself is scary he admits, especially in a venue this big. He compares his opening for Passenger to going to see Picasso’s paintings in Paris and then there’s “some strange dude asking you to check out his weird painting for 30 minutes”. We didn’t find him strage. It was more along the lines of checking out a beautifully composed picture by an artist we had heard of but not yet seen. And we definitely feel like we want to see more of Gregory’s folk rock.

Gregory Alan Isakov was born in South Africa and later immigrated to the US as a child. The singer-songwriter was heavily influenced by the likes of Leonard Cohen, Kelly Joe Phelps and Bruce Springsteen, and usually tours with a full band so opening by himself is scary he admits, especially in a venue this big. He compares his opening for Passenger to going to see Picasso’s paintings in Paris and then there’s “some strange dude asking you to check out his weird painting for 30 minutes”. We didn’t find him strage. It was more along the lines of checking out a beautifully composed picture by an artist we had heard of but not yet seen. And we definitely feel like we want to see more of Gregory’s folk rock. Good thing he’s coming back to the UK with his band next Spring. Get your tickets via Ticketmaster.co.uk.

Passenger and his band walk on to the stage like shadows in a sea of lights. The set is filled with new tunes and old goodies, but our favourite part is the storytelling in-between songs. It brings an intimacy to the 5,000-cap venue. “Before this song, life was different,” he tells us about Let Her Go,reminding us the song is actually called that and not Let IT Go although the confusion, he says, may have to do with him “looking like a Disney Princess”. Later on, Passenger tells us the song was written within 45 minutes backstage and he’s sung it so many times that he doesn’t always feel it anymore, but this evening he felt every single word – and so did we! Before the explosion onto the international radio scene, Passenger traveled the world for five long years busking in the streets while sometimes asking himself why he’s doing this. And the origin story ends in a motivational “no matter what others tell you, be passionate, don’t give up!” followed by the upbeat 27 from the album Whispers.

During the more subdued solo set, Passenger aka Michael Rosenberg asks the audience to be as quiet as possible. He continues to tell us the two heartbreaking stories behind Travelling Alone, written during his busking time in Copenhagen. If the story alone doesn’t give you goosebumps, the song sure will. It tells the story of a man from Australia who is travelling the world after his wife passed away and is finally fulfilling their life-long dream of discovering the world. The second part of the song talk about a girl whose boyfriend just broke up with her to trade her in for a newer model. And as the melody travels throughout the venue, the words hit you right in the feels.

There’s also a rare occasion where a cover feels almost more fitting than the original. Passenger’s rendition of the Simon & Garfunkel tune The Sound Of Silence suits his voice perfectly, and the interpretation of Ain’t No Sunshine is the cherry on top of an emotional sundae.

With Scare Away The Dark, Passenger finds the perfect song to close the evening, dedicated it to “everyone who feels a bit rough after 2016” – and we all do. It’s catchy tune which calls for you to sing at the top of your voice, and the Eventim Apollo happily obliges.

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