WE REVIEW JAPANESE BREAKFAST LIVE IN MANCHESTER, WHAT HAPPENED?
‘This song’s about a city I’ve never been to’ quips Michelle Zauner while introducing ‘Kokomo, IN’ – a nostalgic and heart-wrenching breakup ballad with lyrics about waiting and longing for the return of the protagonist’s love.
Taken from the American band’s 2021 album Jubilee, thesong is one of many where the dream pop glow of their earlier work is replaced with a smorgasbord of orchestral instrumentation. The album has seen Japanese Breakfast’s audience expand significantly. Furthermore, Zauner published her first book, Crying in H Mart: A Memoir, in the same year. The book’s success was a significant contributor in her being named one of the most 100 most influential people in the world by Time.
The night opens with ‘Paprika’ – during which Zauner gambols graciously across the stage with a microphone in hand and percussion mallet in the other, primed to strike the stage’s central gong during the track’s climactic passages.
It’s one of many moments when the group’s vocalist endears herself gracefully to a packed out Manchester Albert Hall. But this venue’s high ceilings and cavernous acoustic do little for the group’s ornate sound. Moments like the deceptively dark retribution ballad ‘Be Sweet’ sound incomplete as the venue’s reverberant walls swamp pizzicato strings and delicate saxophone melodies.
Some of these newer cuts – like the keyboard heavy ‘Tactics’ – suit the venue better – but the band’s earlier songs form the night’s highlights. Fan favourite ‘Boyish’ is both charming and tragic as every instrumental swell spills from the stage like a dense mist.
The coy ‘Everybody Wants to Love You’ is bright and joyous. Closing the night before encores, its reception is rapturous – many of the seated balcony greet the song’s conclusion with a standing ovation. The evening’s encores of ‘Posing for Cars’ and ‘Driving Woman’ are lengthier. indebted to progressive rock, they form an expansive and grand finish to a sweetly performed, if at times acoustically under par, set of songs.