I think it’s fair to say that Michelle Zauner, the creative force behind Japanese Breakfast — who packed a sold-out show at the Baltimore Soundstage Friday night — has had a busy year since I had the fortune to see her and her band last summer. Both Jubilee, Japanese Breakfast’s third full-length album, released last year and Zauner’s memoir, Crying in H Mart, have become hits with critics and audiences, with Crying in H Mart being adapted as a feature film.
Personally, as a fan, it’s hard to put into words how both what Japanese Breakfast and this most recent album, Jubilee, in particular, have created. As a father whose daughter, just in this past year, has started having that connection with music that’s intangible but so strong, the music of Japanese Breakfast has become another common reference point that goes beyond what I’m sure was even intended when those chords were put together and those words penned to paper.
As the remnants of hurricane Ian could start to be felt outside, things were much warmer inside as fans, who had waited in a line that wrapped around the block filed into the Soundstage on Sept. 30.
Kicking the set off in style, the band took the stage to the opening keyboard wash of “Paprika” as Michelle, mallet in one hand and mic in the other, danced and punctuated the song — banging the gong set up at the center of the stage. At times it felt like she was floating, being lifted up by some unseen force, visibly happy and feeding off the excitement in the room. And that energy continued onto the next song, the single, “Be Sweet,” as what seemed like everyone in the crowd sang along, dancing as much as they could dance in the jam-packed space.
Watch the official music video for “Be Sweet” by Japanese Breakfast on YouTube:
I love how a song transforms over time, as it evolves in that ever-changing cauldron that is live music. A perfect example is how even though the melody on “In Heaven” hasn’t changed but the way it’s arranged and how it feels has changed over time — a living organism that matches the feel and mood that’s required.
From the soothing bounce of “Kokomo, IN” and “Road Head” to the indie pop of “Savage Good Boy” Japanese Breakfast kept this crowd on their feet and swaying along with the band. Looking over to my daughter, I could see that excitement that I felt and remembered back to those first shows I had been witness to now decades ago. And as the band near the end of their set, with the music bopping and everyone jumping to Zauner’s lead it was hard not to get swept up in the joy of the moment.
As the crowd continued calling for an encore, Michelle came back on stage, solo, with just her guitar to play “Posing for Cars” before the band rejoined her for the final number, “Diving Woman.” A brilliant night of fantastic music that I feel fortune to have been able to share, and one that this dad will not forget.
The setlist included:
The Woman That Loves You
Savage Good Boy
The Body Is a Blade
Posing in Bondage
Everybody Wants to Love You
Posing for Cars
Here are more photos of Japanese Breakfast performing at the Baltimore Soundstage on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.