Passenger Live Review


Passenger, Inland Sea, Jackson McLaren

The Zoo: 06.05.11

 By Rachel Tinney

First to grace the stage on this folk-fuelled night at the Zoo is Melbourne lad Jackson McLaren. At only 20 years of age, the baby-faced McLaren is quick to capture the attention of the early arrivals with his raw and emotive outlook on life. Armed with only his guitar and surrounded by what looks like a graveyard of mic stands (I’m guessing this has something to do with the large number of Inland Sea-ians who are up next) he stands alone on the stage but voice easily fills the room. Halfway through his endearing set, McLaren breaks a string. Faced with the dilemma of being a left-handed guitarist, he borrows a guitar, flips it upside-down, apologises for what could be a potential disaster and continues to play. To the untrained ear, there is barely a fault, proving this boy has talent well beyond his years.

After a brief break, the empty stage is filled, and then some. The ten members of Inland Sea make the large Zoo stage seem tiny as they cram themselves together and invade each other’s personal space just a bit. Performing together as a whole for the first time in a while, they seem delighted to be on stage and eager to perform. However, the crowd doesn’t seem to share that same sentiment. With loud chatter from the bar at the back of the room washing forward, their sweet harmonies are easily lost amongst the noise. This is insanely obvious on Lord I Am Waiting, a ten part a capella piece that would generally have the room so quiet you could hear a pin drop, but not tonight.  All Fall Down distracts the punters from their conversations for a moment but, through no fault of their own, tonight just doesn’t seem to be the night for Inland Sea – which is odd, considering the overall folk theme of the night.

Soon the boy we have all been waiting for steps onto the stage, flanked by a full backing band including the wonderfully talented Stu Larsen on guitar. After only two songs though, Passenger (aka Mike Rosenberg) kicks the rest of the band off to bring things down a notch for his signature style of rather depressing songs, including one about “really rubbish break up sex”. To lighten the mood, he throws in a song about the constant rain in London which turns out to be quite funny. He’d easily have a good run as a comedian if all the gloomy heartbreak ever starts to wear him out. It’s soon back to the favourite Passenger tracks but a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence is slipped in much to the delight of both the crowd and Passenger himself.  Too soon he is announcing his final song, Flight of the Crow, and before announcing he doesn’t want to go back to the UK, “I only play to 14 people there”, he disappears only to return quite quickly for a much-wanted encore. Inciting a sing-a-long about all the things he hates which includes the line: “I hate ignorant folks who pay for a gig then talk through every fucking song” (you can almost hear a “fuck yeah!” coming from the Inland Sea camp), he then admits he must sadly go and leaves the stage for good.


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