The cold weather is coming Montreal, time to gather indoors! What better excuse for a good group huddle for warmth than Passenger being in town? The man does always sound like he’s singing fireside.
24 hours earlier, I knew very little about opener Ken Yates other than his name was very similar to the photographer who was going to join me on this assignment. I did my research and was pleased to find out he’s a Canadian talent. Listening to his work I found some very solid songwriting but found a man trying to find his voice somewhere between Canadian and southern.
I’m happy to say that live, Ken seems to know exactly where his voice is. He gave a much more natural sound live. It takes a lot of cojones to stand in front of a crowd the size of a sold-out Corona Theatre alone with an acoustic guitar and sing quiet songs, especially when the crowd is here to see the guy that’s on in 30 minutes, but Yates pulled it off and won over the crowd. There were very few ostriches with their heads buried int heir phone. He’s young and definitely a talent to follow.
Again, alone on stage, Passenger walks out with all the humility in the world and shyly announces, “Hello, my name is Mike, or you can call me Passenger.” He then announces, “this is a very, very miserable song to start things off with, it’s called Fairytales and Firesides.” This shouldn’t be the start to a great set of music, but damn it if he isn’t engaging. Two lines into this dirge he’s got the crowd wooing to the point where he shies away from the mic with a nervous smile and shares a laugh with everyone and everyone is hooked on every word.
He has a rare ability to have a conversation with the audience and reply to shout outs, which are mostly confessions of love from the ladies in the audience. He does this without missing a beat.
I had a chuckle when he took the staple of jock pump-up music, “Eye of Tiger” and turned it into his own. He used it as an intro to his ubiquitous “Let Her Go” which made it all the more perfect. As the crowd wooed the opening chords, he coyly said “so you remember this one.” Mike, my grandmother remembers this one. I’ll be 88 in a nursing home not remembering the name of the poor woman who changes my adult diaper daily, but I’ll hear those opening chords and I’ll look up and mumble “well you only need the light when it’s burning low…” By the end, it was only the crowd singing, they were too loud for him to compete with.
His encore started with an amazing version of the Boss’ classic “Dancing in the Dark.” To make Springsteen your own is a feat to be sure.
I’ll admit that while “All the Little Lights” was in heavy rotation on my Spotify for a long while, I haven’t paid much attention to his career since. This night was a testament to what a mistake that was. When you have songs stuck in your head that you’ve only heard once live, it’s because that’s a great song.
We all got sent home clapping our hands and stomping our feet with “Holes.” A nice little fun cap to a great night with an insanely talented and uniquely engaging performer.
Review – Richard Brunette
Photos – Kieron Yates