Featured image and gallery: Joseph Hylton
There isn’t a more fitting venue to host American alt-pop outfit Japanese Breakfast than Manchester’s Albert Hall. With high ceilings, huge ornate glass windows and frontwoman Michelle Zauner dressed in a flowing white Simone Rocha number looking like a fairy without wings, the night feels less like a live show and more like transportation into some mystical world that very few lucky people have access to.
‘Paprika’ kicks off the night, and soon enough, the crowd are swaying along as Zauner dances about the stage waving the drumstick she has been using to gently tap the gong that sits to the right of where she stands. There’s hardly a single moment in the hour and a half the band are on stage where she is still. She moves like water across the stage with a huge grin plastered across her face the entire time. It’s an opportunity for her to showcase the musical layers that make up 2021’s Grammy-nominated Jubilee, and so the crowd don’t particularly mind the lack of discussion from the singer’s end. They remain engrossed in the sweeping melodies that fill the room.
There are cathartic moments aplenty, littered throughout the set, ‘Boyish’ and ‘In Hell’ are both stand-out examples, with the latter being about the singer’s mother, who passed away from cancer in 2014. It didn’t matter if you hadn’t personally lost a parent or someone close to you at that moment it’s hard not to feel totally overwhelmed by sadness. For the duration of those two songs, the crowd are the most subdued they’ve been the entire evening.
The atmosphere was all of a sudden electric again as the band slides with ease from the sadder portion of the set into ‘Everybody Wants to Love You’ from their first record, followed by Michelle’s solo performance of ‘Posing for Cars’, making the huge Albert Hall feel like the most intimate space in the world. Zauner and her band share a connection like nothing ever seen before – perhaps this is to be expected considering her husband Peter is the guitarist, but as a collective, they are on another level entirely.
‘Diving Woman’ closes the set, and what a finish it is, the joy is radiating off of every person in the room and is almost enough to forget the wet and cold Monday night awaiting concertgoers as they flood back onto the street.