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Japanese Breakfast brings joyous sounds of “Jubilee” to Minneapolis

The indie-pop band played the Mainroom at First Avenue on Sunday, Sept. 19.
Image by Ethan Fine
Michelle Zauner, lead singer of Japanese Breakfast, looks out into the crowd during the opening song of the band’s concert at First Avenue, Sunday, Sept. 19. The show is a part of the band’s 2021 Jubilee tour.

“Feel free to close your eyes and float away with me,” Toronto-based musician Luna Li , also known as Hannah Kim, told the eager crowd.

Holding the butterfly guitar she explained was acquired through a man she met via a Facebook music group, Kim moved around the First Avenue Mainroom in a custom silver jacket on Sept. 19 as she opened for indie-pop sensation Japanese Breakfast.

This wasn’t the kind of concert where you scream along to every lyric at the top of your lungs, your ears filled with the shouts of every individual nearby. Instead, it was the type of show that called for passionate head nods and soft sways, collective crowd movements that emulated the charged, whimsical energy both Luna Li and Japanese Breakfast projected onstage.

Between the beautiful instrumentals and her signature airy vocals, Kim captivated the crowd. And although her performance of hits from the “jams” EP were lovely, the highlight of the set for me was when she gently lowered herself to the ground in the middle of a song, folding her body onto the stage and resting her cheek upon the ground for a moment.

“I like the vulnerability that the person who’s on stage is exhibiting because a lot of us desire to be able to feel that vulnerable and express that freely, but it’s a huge and bold choice to do that,” attendee Laci McBride said, discussing what she enjoys most about live performances.

Decked out in a shimmery, sequined ensemble complete with puffy structured shoulders, Japanese Breakfast frontwoman Michelle Zauner had the bold aspect down as she opened the show with “Paprika” from “Jubilee”.

“Jubilee” is different from previous Japanese Breakfast albums; bolder and laced with enthusiasm, it’s a stark contrast to the heavier, grief-tinged “Psychopomp” and “Soft Sounds from Another Planet.”

The masked crowd, composed primarily of twenty-somethings outfitted in everything from pastel band merchandise to a stunning tiered tulle dress, was packed tightly into the venue, standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the main floor and on the second-floor balcony.

Audience members remained largely quiet at times throughout the night, not for lack of interest but rather to leave room for a sort of silent appreciation of Zauner’s lyrics and the intimacy of her performance style. When she sings, the barriers between audience member and performer seem to dissipate, leaving the listener clinging to every word and synthy beat.

Apart from her soaring vocals, which happen to be punchy in just the right places, Zauner was accompanied by a six-piece band onstage. At one point, she was hitting a gong. At another, she sat down at the piano. Zauner kept the energy steady throughout, boosted by numerous saxophone solos.

From older classics like “The Woman That Loves You” to a cover of Little Big League’s “Boyish,” Japanese Breakfast hit it all. Zauner also treated fans to a live performance of “Glider,” Japanese Breakfast’s contribution to the recently released soundtrack of the video game Sable.

While the night ended on a high note with a two-song encore of “Posing for Cars” and “Diving Woman,” it was evident that the crowd was left satisfied but also wanting more — an indication of Zauner’s lasting impact on her audience.

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