Japanese Breakfast


Michelle Zauner, aka Japanese Breakfast, has made two albums of immaculate American indie that could soundtrack the very best films from the golden age of teen movies, which everyone knows ran from the late 90s to the early 00s and included such masterpieces as 10 Thing I Hate About You, She’s All That, Cruel Intentions and obvs, Mean Girls (80s apologists can do one here). All her songs transport you to an American high school prom where the band is playing on stage, you’re just about to make it with the girl (or boy, or other) of your dreams, and then the perfect song comes on and something magical happens.

Take ‘Boyish’, for instance. Tonight, after a slightly slow start where ‘In Heaven’ (from her brilliant debut album Psychopomp) is tossed off a bit too early, she plays the absolute best song she’s ever done in conjunction with several lights hitting the ginormous glitter ball at the heart of the Deaf Institute, and all of a sudden the gig is absolutely magical. ‘Boyish’ is the greatest slow dance song that’s never soundtracked a teen movie prom scene, and it completely transforms this gig into something thrilling.

Dressed in a floral pant suit and backed by a band including a drummer with a beautiful mullet that I want to run my hands through, Zauner settles into a groove that doesn’t let up for the rest of the gig. ‘Machinist’, with its sultry spoken word intro and synth pop is basically the Drive soundtrack brought to life, and a pulsating ‘Road Head’, with Zauner’s vocal soaring into the atrium of the venue, is something very special indeed. ‘Everybody Wants To Love You’ is a pure singalong celebration, a reminder of the power of a fucking great pop song, the crowd bouncing along to what would be a huge hit for someone like Katy Perry in the real world.

Halfway through the set, the rest of the band depart to leave Zauner and her luxuriously mullet’d bandmate on stage alone, where she promises to “play some slow jams…actually they’re not jams, they’re just slow”, breaking into a beautiful ‘This House’ which is just her strumming at an acoustic guitar, accompanied by sparse keys, relaying a tale of long distance heartbreak that captivates the entire sold out crowd.

And then it’s acknowledged, the 22nd May, the first anniversary of the heartbreaking terrorist attack at Ariana Grande’s Manchester Arena concert where 22 innocent people lost their lives whilst out enjoying themselves, lost in a world of pop music that quickly turned into senseless murder. Zauner pauses after ‘This House’ to speak in the most articulate way I’ve heard anyone talk about the tragedy, conveying the helplessness of how it must have been that day: “I can’t imagine something as beautiful as this being disrupted with so much violence”. It’s met with thunderous applause and whoops, a moment to reflect on the people who didn’t come home from that gig, and what it means to be able to come to a live show and not be afraid of not returning home from it.

They finish with a driving krautrock ‘Diving Woman’, all motorik rhythms and slinky synths, before departing from the stage without so much as a goodbye, and no encore (more bands should just play all their best songs and leave without the arduous ‘will they won’t they?’ encore business…OF COURSE THEY WILL THE HOUSE LIGHTS ARE STILL DOWN!), Japanese Breakfast have been the perfect band to the prom I’ll never go to.

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