The pouring rain didn’t stop thousands from trekking to the Royal Botanical Gardens for the first instalment of Kew the Music 2017. Opening the night was Irish singer-songwriter David Keenan, who set the tone for the evening with his pretty melodies and unique, gravelly voice. There’s something about listening to live folk music in the rain, and the magic continued with Australia’s Stu Larson – his long blonde hair flowing while he sang us some borderline religious songs and told stories of road trips and what it was like growing up in small town Australia. While both opening acts were fantastic and did set the tone well for the main event – by the time Passenger hit the stage, the fullness of his band was most welcome. Nothing against singer-songwriters equipped only with a guitar, it’s just that no matter how talented they are, it can get a little boring once the palate starts to crave a full band. And when Passenger hit the stage, it was anything but boring. His banter between songs was genuine, loveable and funny – in addition to being an immensely talented songwriter, singer and guitarist, he is also charismatic and funny, which goes a long way on stage. Romantic songs can get you feeling a little down, so when they’re paired with clever chat between tracks it almost physically lifts you up and gives you the cheer necessary so you won’t go home and cry yourself to sleep.
The set started off strong with “Somebody’s Love”, and from that moment on, Rosenberg delivered all of his fan favourites including of course “Let Her Go”, which he didn’t let slip by without a few joke references to Frozen’s “Let It Go”. Stu Larsen even joined him on stage to perform the song they wrote together, “Hearts on Fire” and their harmonies were absolutely perfect. In the midst of a set of fantastic originals, Rosenberg and his band pulled out a beautiful rendition of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Cars” and incited quite a few crowd singalongs, especially during his catchy and lyric-heavy “I Hate” – and for a rainy London night it was impressive how engaged everyone was. Overall, Kew Gardens was a special place to be, rain and all.