Before even hitting the stage at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday night, up-and-coming indie rock-folk band The Paper Kites, who hail from Australia, sort of expected they were rather unknown in the nation’s capital.
As the audience was waiting to enter the venue, several people were handing out flyers giving a bit of background about the band, and most concertgoers who were on-hand to see Passenger perform seemed ready to give the Australians a shot.
Kites lead singer Sam Bentley and the band hit the stage with “Revelator Eyes,” a song from their newest album, twelvefour, which immediately drew a number of people closer to the stage who joined the fans clearly there to see them.
After ripping it up with harder-than-expected versions of “Renegade” and “A Maker of My Time,” the band introduced itself and drew cheers from the crowd as they wished everyone a happy International Women’s Day.
The band launched into “Bloom,” their most popular song on Spotify, and you could see that even those drifting in the corners started to gather more of an interest in the young Aussie quintet. The cheers only grew louder as their set went on.
After their final tune, the band members headed to the merchandise table, posing for photos and signing autographs. No one was rushed, and they took time to answer questions and personalize every signature if that’s what people wanted. I spoke with them about Passenger and how they’ve enjoyed being part of the tour.
That was almost a perfect cue for the appearance of Passenger (a.k.a. Michael David Rosenberg), who deked in a denim shirt and dark khakis, had the crowd exploding with energy. Fans were entranced, and why shouldn’t they be? He has that dreamy British accent, strums a guitar like a pro and has a rare, unmistakable voice.
He started his set with one of his more upbeat songs, “Somebody’s Love,” and it was clear that most in the crowd were familiar with it, despite it coming off his latest album, Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea.
Rosenberg followed that up with “Life’s for the Living” to ease the crowd into his slower, more emotional music. Along the way, he shared a lot of personal anecdotes with the crowd, like how less than five years ago, he was singing on street corners or at any pub that would let him perform there.
Some of Rosenberg’s songs draw from personal experiences with people he’s met on his journey, hearing about loves they’ve lost or the struggles that they’ve endured. The tune “Traveling Alone,” he explained, is a story about two different people that Rosenberg met on a tour in Copenhagen.
The singer showed he had quite a sense of humor as well, and connected perfectly with his crowd. He also performed a popular show song of his called “I Hate” with a very simple chorus that he taught to the audience beforehand, resulting in a very fun and satirical sing-along.
As the set came closer to an end, the hundreds on hand were almost in a frenzy when the first notes of “Let Her Go” began.
Throughout the night, Rosenberg was crisp and true to his recordings, and it’s easy to see why Passenger has been kicking it on the charts. The pairing of the two bands was strong, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see The Paper Kites taking the same ride on the charts sometime soon.