Passenger and The Paper Kites ruled a sold out First Avenue

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Saturday night’s sold out show started out with Australian indie-rockers The Paper Kites. With only a half hour long set, it was hard for me to completely fall head over heels for these guys but, what I did hear had me a bit intrigued. They indie rock had a sense of folk music that was subtle but still noticeable. I don’t quite know how to explain but I can say that it made these guys feel unique in a scene that is so over saturated with generic sounds. Throughout the set, band members were swapping instruments with each other which just showed off the true talent in this give piece band. I found myself playing a bit of a guessing game when it came to what band member would have what instruments for the next song. The swaps were flawless and added a sense of beauty to the already gorgeous set.

The voices of Sam Bentley and Christian Lacy blended perfectly into an almost hauntingly beautiful sound. When you mix those voices with the lap steel being played by David Powys, you got a sense of country music but with Josh Bentley’s powerful rhythms coming out from behind the drum kit, it would be impossible to classify these guys as a country band. The driving bass lines from Sam Rasmussen kept the tempo vibrant but without rushing anything or making the music come off as being too fast. Everything about this band seemed to have a perfect balance and an element of perfection without being completely straight laced. Although the tempos seemed rigid and the strings of notes came off as meticulously written, there was still a fresh and fun feeling to the music that made you want to tap your toe and nod your head.

Pushing the envelope as far as genre goes, even with all of the different influences that could be pinpointed throughout The Paper Kites’ set, it still felt like a cohesive set. The six songs they chose to play all had a different vibe and truly showed off the wide range of music these guys play. From their opening song “Revelator Eyes” to the closing track “Electric Indigo”, the band kept a very clean and professional demeanor about them yet somehow kept the set feeling light. Being a bit of a new band (formed in 2010), and with only two studio albums out, I think it’s safe to assume that we will be seeing a lot from from this band in the very near future. 

After The Paper Kites’ quick set, one puke clean up and one passed out chick in the front row for no apparent reason, the stage was set for Passenger. I was joking with the photographer who was assigned to the show with me. We were talking about how the title of our post should be “So Two Single People Go To A Passenger Show…” I mean, it was true, we were in a sea of couples and, I can’t speak for him but, I know I was feeling the loneliness a bit more than usual. As he walked towards the photo pit in front of the stage, I was left alone at my spot under the stairs. The band started to walk out on stage, I took a deep breath, and prepared for impact.

Mike Rosenberg, AKA Passenger, came out on stage with his guitar in hand. The members of his backing band took their spots behind their instruments and the set began. After just one song, Mike addressed the crowd with a brand of humor and a personality that ended up becoming a huge selling point for me as the night went on (more on that later). “I only have one really famous song… It’s not to be confused with Disney’s song “Let It Go”— That movie ruined my fucking life.” I couldn’t help but literally laugh out loud at this and, although I don’t quite understand how someone could get his song “Let Her Go” confused with the famed song “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen, I more than appreciated the fact that Mike was able to make it into a bit of a joke.

Passenger forged ahead with their set and I found myself loving the show more than I ever thought I would. To say that Mike has a unique voice would be an understatement. It’s one of those voices where, as soon as you hear it, you know damn well who it belongs to. The band behind him just enhances his voice and seems to respectfully take a back seat to the iconic voice. That’s not to say they go without mention as towards the end of the set, Mike introduced each member to the crowd which truly showed the integrity of this guy. I mean, he didn’t have to do that and, honestly, I don’t think the crowd really cared since they were mostly just there for him but it was a nice gesture.

I wouldn’t consider Passenger’s songs to be full of energy on recordings. It’s not that their recordings are bad more just not my style. They lack an aggression and energy that I crave from music but the story was completely different when it came to their live show. Mike and the band had a sense of energy that I wasn’t quite expecting. I found myself falling love a bit more with every single song they played and, although I probably won’t become an avid listener of Passenger, as soon as they announce another Minneapolis show, I will be buying a ticket and going.

In-between songs, Mike had a way of infusing humor and a humble attitude into his set. After the first line of his cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”, Mike addressed the crowd and told them that this was his new song. I’m sure this joke was a bit lost on the extremely young members of the crowd but it wasn’t lost on the older portion and those who caught the joke erupted into laughter. He introduced one song as “a silently cry in the dark” kind of song which, is actually too true to even laugh at. He was able to poke a little bit of fun at himself when it came to his hit song “Let Her Go” without coming off as unprofessional. The best part about Mike’s banter is that it didn’t feel scripted at all. His personality shined and, within just a couple of songs, he felt like a guy who got lucky with one hit song and he knew it. You could feel the appreciation radiate off the stage as he thanked the sold out crowd for paying the somewhat expensive ticket prices (his words, not mine) to come out and see him.

With the mix of humor, tasteful music, and true talent, Passenger had me sold. Passenger is definitely in my top 20 live bands of all time and, when you go see a show damn near every night, that’s truly saying something.

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