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« Passenger at the Toronto Urban Roots Festival, September 19th, 2015 »

I’ve been a fan of Mike Rosenberg, or Passenger as he’s better known, for over three years now. He broke out globally with his hit “Let Her Go” and the album it came from, “All the Little Lights,” caught my ears. I’ve been trying to catch him live ever since, but until today, every time he’s come to Toronto, I’ve been elsewhere.

He played for an hour at the Toronto Urban Roots Festival, acoustic guitar in hand and heart on his sleeve. An accomplished songwriter and natural storyteller, he blended those two gifts to give an inspired performance. That he remains humble and slightly incredulous of his success despite his tremendous talent and achievements just makes him all the more charming. He bantered in between songs, said “thank you so much” more times than I could count, and it all seemed genuine and heartfelt.

The weather was warm and the rain held off until very late in the set, and the audience was treated to material from all his albums. After beginning with the beautiful “Fairytales and Firesides,” the crowd was invited to participate by singing along and assured “that it’s not important to sound good, but to be loud.” The hour went by quickly, with everyone clapping and singing and then quietly listening to some of his most beautiful ballads; in particular, his cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence” captured the audience and kept them with him until he left the stage one encore and thirty-five minutes later.

Despite his claims of being a depressing artist, I found the entire experience uplifting and joyous: he made and held eye contact with his fans, responded to calls with polite gratitude and a wide smile, and delivered an all-too short set filled with great songs. I didn’t get to hear my three favourite numbers, “Feather on the Clyde”, “Hearts on Fire”, and “Coins In a Fountain”, but he did play some fantastic numbers and give me a day to remember. I am hoping that he will make a surprise appearance at Ed Sheeran’s Air Canada Centre show tomorrow night: he had been touring with him, they are both good friends, and it would be such a delight to see them on the stage together. Fingers crossed for a second day of magic tomorrow!

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