There’s a feeling that I get sometimes; it might be love, as I only get it from wry women and truly great live music. It’s a flushness, a heat on the neck that brings air to my chest and a smile to my face. This is the feeling I got from Japanese Breakfast, the solo brainchild of Michelle Zauner.
In “Soft Sounds From Another Planet”, Japanese Breakfast presented a nearly-perfect album in which she frequently took large artistic risks that reap on-going rewards. “Soft Sounds” showed impressive progression from the similarly sterling “Psychopomp,” Zauner’s first solo album, and I was excited to hear some of the catalogue live.
Zauner came on stage wearing all-white: white, high-waisted pants and a white crop-style tank-top. Her entire right arm was covered in tattoos, and her hair was dark, short and messy.
The band, consisting of Zauner on lead, two additional guitarists – one of whom, a fellow named Craig, switched to keyboards as needed – and a drummer, dove in with the first song off of “Soft Sounds”, Diving Woman. Zauner played and sang with a cheeky, sly grin on her face, grooving and enjoying the sound of her own music, booming clear as a crystal in the packed Fox Cabaret, jumping up and down like a little girl waking up her parents way too early on a Sunday morning with her rockstar dreams.
“Glad to be back in the ‘Couv”, Zauner said after the first song, “I heard someone call it ‘the Van’ this one time, too.”
The audience booed.
“Alright, I get it. You guys don’t like new things.”
Although the crowd continued to revel in its own ‘ironicism’ at various points throughout the night, Japanese Breakfast provided enough unadulterated, raw energy and enjoyment to fill the room. During In Heaven, the first song off of “Psychopomp”, Zauner was hitting notes with such power that her face was scrunched up like Roger Daltry singing Love Reign O’er Me. At one point during the next song, The Woman That Loves You, she pounced away from the mic and pounced quickly back again during a brief break between vocal responsibility. It was a little moment, but I loved it. There’s something about Zauner that is difficult to put into words – something true, raw, pure and subtly electric. She clearly cherishes the opportunity to play her music live and in crowded rooms, with booming, complex speaker systems. Of everyone in the Fox Cabaret that night, Zauner was boogying the hardest. In an industry where detached aloofness often seems to be the play, it was refreshing to see an artist who seemed to be at totally immersed in the act of expression.
The highlight of the night, for me, was the final song of the set: Machinist, a song about falling in love with a robot. It is hilariously corny and fun, and Zauner’s live delivery of the opening soliloquy was incredibly charming. Even more impressive was her ability to stretch out high, wailing vocal notes (surely borrowing from her background in an emo band). All in all, Japanese Breakfast put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, with an indescribably raw energy that is remarkably rare in music nowadays. Zauner, particularly, possesses a live magnetism and emotional palpability that I have found to be almost unparalleled.
The Woman That Loves You
The Body Is A Blade
Everybody Wants To Love You