A special evening of folk-rock music and fine songwriting is what awaited the audience on Friday, July 14 at Montreux Jazz Festival in the beautiful Stravinski.
Passenger strucks me every time for his down-to-earth behaviour and humility and this since I first saw him in 2012 while he was supporting Ed Sheeran at X-Tra in Zürich. That was the first time I got to know him and his music and it was impossible not to fall in love with him at first hear. He has a lot of British humour and is incredibly sweet with the audience.
He kicks off the concert with some of his happy songs, with a folky rhythm dictated by his acoustic guitar played rapidly accompanied by the drums and instruments played by his band.
Passenger remains alone on stage to play a few songs, because as he tells the audience, he has played alone for most of his career. He plays songs from his latest album Young As The Morning Old As The Sea (2016) as well as older ones.
Passenger loves telling stories on stage to introduce his songs and he does that beautifully and in a touching way. A clear example is the anecdote he tells to introduce the sad song “Riding to New York”. He tells the audience he started smoking when he was 15 years old and that one day a few years ago when he was in Minneapolis he woke up in the middle of the night craving for a cigarette. So he went out to get some and at the gas station he met this old guy who was smoking and as he passed by said “this is the best cig I’ve ever had”. So he stops and talks to the guy, he then tells Passenger he has lung cancer and is riding from Minneapolis to New York to enjoy the time he has left and spend time with his grandkids. Moral of the story: Passenger didn’t buy cigarettes that night and hasn’t smoked since… from this life lesson he penned the touching lyrics of “Riding to New York” which he dedicates to that man “wherever he might be now”.
Passenger also plays a beautiful cover of “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel, revisiting in his own way. “Hate” is one of his best songs in my opinion, it’s a song that requires the participation of the audience to go and hate with him, and the things he says in the songs are very hateful.
His “only hit song”, as he refers to “Let her go”, could not be missing, he plays it without announcing it, but it doesn’t matter because everybody knows those opening chords as well as the lyrics. Passenger lets the audience sing along with him and also sing alone, a touching moment of togetherness. The audience enchants a “oooh oh” during the last song, vocalizes which last long before he’s gone from the stage. The public is so loud and Passenger and his band come back for an encore.
The song he chooses to end his gig is the hopeful “Holes”, tune that the audience sings in unison with him. A stunning performance overall!
10.05pm-11.20pm The Lumineers
Colorado band The Lumineers is back at Montreux Jazz Festival after 4 years, last time they played the Lab (I was there back then as well) and this time they play the bigger venue Stravinski. The acoustic of this latter venue suits better to their music, with its wooden ceiling and the setting. The Lumineers enchant the audience with their multi-instrumental folk-rock music.
Singer Wesley Schultz, cowboy hat on his head, claims that the Stravinski’s acoustic and architecture was made for people in the back to hear the music without any need for microphone and amplifiers. And so The Lumineers plays a stunning unplugged version of “Ho Hey”, in which the band leaves the audience to sing most of it. A beautiful and intimate moment in which there is no need for amplifiers but the coming together of the voices and mutual respect is all that matters.
Neyla Pekarek’s melancholic cello is ever present in the songs as are her backing vocals. Drummer Jeremiah Fraites comes up to the front of the stage in a number of songs to play the bells and to give with his foot the rhythm to the bass drum. They are accompanied by three additional members, Bryon Isaac on bass, Stelth Ulvang on the piano and Brandon Miller on percussion, guitar and mandolin.
They play “Cleopatra”, a very folk-rock tune which gives the title to their 2016 album. A song tainted with multiple instruments coming together and highlighting the crystalline voice of the singer. Another song they play taken from their latest album is “Ophelia”, during which the audience is singing along in the refrain.
Singer Wesley Schultz remains on stage on his own, he introduces the song “Long Way from Home”, by saying it is about his dad who passed away ten years ago for a cancer and who underwent the same suffering as his own mother. The singer says that playing this song live helps him in the healing process. Needless to say that the song is very moving and he plays it putting his heart out there in front of the audience. He is then joined by the rest of the band again to play a few more songs and end the gig in beauty.
The 51st Montreux Jazz Festival came to an end on Saturday July 15th, around 230’000 people attended the festival and the turn out is very positive.
See you next year for the 52nd edition!