Live Review: Passenger + The Once - Adelaide Entertainment Centre Theatre (20.01.15)

A sheet of cross-legged fans formed the floor of the theatre, hungrily awaiting a sign of life. Rosy-cheeked children munched on iceblocks while grey-haired couples chattered close by; an unspoken harmony connected the audience and made Passenger’s warmhearted energy evident long before he hit the stage.

Newfoundland natives The Once enveloped the room with flawless acapella harmonies from the moment they met the microphone with “Coming Back to You”. Their wholesome energy swept the crowd and their quaint Canadian drawl melted smoothly into their powerful vocals for an intoxicating brew.

The trio completed their six-song set with instrumental support. Banjo twangs, acoustic chords and resonant drum beats drove the rhythms, highlighting their immense talent and impressive sense of musicality. While their unexpectedly eclectic act embraced the likes of Elvis Presley and The Rolling Stones, the real standout was their farewell number “We Are All Running”. It was enthusiastic from the first note and authentic to the last, much like their full performance.

Passenger’s time to shine was welcomed by roaring applause bouncing between the walls. A whimsical projection of two young kids frolicking around a tyre swing backed the sole artist and his guitar, heralding the beginning of an introspective and thought-provoking night.

“Rolling Stone”, fresh from his latest album Whispers, kicked things off. His crisp English-accented tones emphasised the delicacy of the lyrics and shrouded the audience in an encouraging silence while the metallic plucks of his guitar filled the air. Passenger’s dry wit stole the spotlight, ensuring the audience his immovably tight jeans weren’t purchased that way and that “they’re pretty fucking painful”. As an addition to the Passenger 101, he went on to clear something up: “You might’ve seen YouTube clips and thought the music sounded a lot like a band… Is this okay? We don’t do refunds.” His humble energy and complete honesty shone brighter than anything else on-stage.

The set progressed seamlessly – regardless of his penchant to play a stop-start combination of music and conversation, it all seemed to flow. From belting out a set of gravelly tones, to speaking gently to a crowd of thousands, Passenger’s sense of passion and vibrant personality was absolutely enchanting. Reflective track “Life’s for the Living” and upbeat ditty “The Wrong Direction” paved the way for the most inspirational moment of the night.

The room fell silent and Passenger’s voice projected the story of when he began smoking to be accepted by the ‘cool’ kids to no avail and unsuccessfully quitting numerous times until he met a man in Minneapolis who had been recently diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, unsure of how long he had left. Raw emotion filled the air before it was replaced with the touching revelation “Riding to New York” – the moment in Passenger’s life when his outlook changed forever.

A flurry of thrashing guitar and a stomping drum beat featured in Simon and Garfunkel’s iconic “The Sound of Silence”, leaving the audience in complete awe. Comical yet blatantly honest “I Hate” proved a crowd favourite, inciting a combination of hysterical laughter and high spirited sing-along. Globally adored track “Let Her Go” was met with a symphony of voices flooding the airwaves, becoming a crowd-led moment while Passenger was left to appreciate the audience with wide eyes.

Passenger took a second to suggest we experience something collectively without phones before bidding farewell and humbly thanking everyone in sight. Buoyant guitar chords led the last track “Scare Away The Dark” and bounced wall to wall. Organic language and an encouraging message belted from his lungs, blaring powerfully around the room until the song met its end and darkness shrouded the theatre. Then something magical happened. Thousands of voices became united and took the song into their own hands, carrying on as though it had never stopped.

Returning for a final goodbye, Passenger launched into the mellow acoustic number “Things That Stop You Dreaming” before stunning beams of light spanned the stage and The Once completed the family for a collaborative take on Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl”. Passenger’s final gift was “Holes” and it was impossible not to feel every word through your body. The second he left the stage and the lights became bright, a wave of fresh thoughts began to blossom and an openness to see the world in a new light began to take over my mind – Passenger’s music is more than a performance, it’s an experience not to be missed.