Japanese Breakfast’s Last Jubilee

Japanese Breakfast: Live at Radio City Music Hall in New York Review by Conor Rooney.

“That went so fast; like a wedding.” Perhaps this could perfectly describe the last 2.5 years of Michelle Zauner’s life, but tonight it felt especially poignant. Towards the end of their set, Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner stood center stage at Radio City Music Hall. This night, bathed in the warm glow of a sold-out crowd, marked a significant moment in the band’s history: It was the hometown culmination of their Jubilee tour, one they had been on since the album’s release in 2021. As one of the last jewels in the crown of the band’s whirlwind two and a half years, tonight’s show seemed to mark the end of a very defining and seismic shift in the story of Japanese Breakfast.

Outside, the atmosphere of Radio City Music Hall crackled with anticipation – a tangible energy hung in the air. As people inside eagerly took to their seats, emerging from behind a raised curtain was opener Ichiko Aoba made her entrance.

The Japanese singer/songwriter’s set was nothing short of spectacular. Through delicately plucked melodies, Aoba’s prowess as a songwriter radiated brilliantly. Her enchanting tunes and unhurried arrangements held the room in a trance-like silence. As her set drew to a close, the applause that erupted for Ichiko Aoba was nothing short of thunderous.

Not long after her set finished, the lights dimmed again and a soft blue glow illuminated the stage. The shadows of the band took the stage through a hazy smokescreen, their presence punctuated by the resonant tolling of church bells. The light from Michelle’s signature illuminated gong pierced brightly through the smoke, and the opening notes to “Paprika” filled the hall with a triumphant echo.

Before all of this — the release of 2021’s Jubilee marked the beginning of this turning point for Michelle Zauner, coinciding with the release of Crying in H mart. A memoir that detailed the loss of her mother and her relationship to her mother, it was a deeply moving and personal account of loss. Following the passing of her mother in 2014, she put that loss to music. What followed was an album, and first under the moniker Japanese Breakfast. 2016’s Psychopomp was, and still is, a poignant exploration of that grief and loss. Her follow up only built on some of the ideas and sonic textures that were explored in her debut. Soft Sounds from Another Planet is brooding, dark and filled both soaring melodies and ethereal synth melodies that catch your ear and don’t let go. If Psychopomp and Soft Sounds elevated Japanese Breakfast Jubilee shot them into the stratosphere.

As the set unfolded and as “Paprika” evolved into “Be Sweet,” it became clear that this was a group at the top of their game; like a well-oiled machine. Navigating through a medley of tracks from Soft Sounds and Jubilee, the first half of the show radiated with unbridled joy and profound emotional release. Equally as captivating stage design, evoking a celestial night sky pockmarked with a thousands of twinkling stars. The bright shards of purples, pinks, and blues in the lighting transformed both the band and the mesmerized audience.

Toward the end of the show, Zauner took a moment to express the gravity of the night; and her gratitude. “I love you all so much” she said, but not before announcing the brief hiatus of Japanese Breakfast. Of course, it’s temporary. The band will break while Michelle plans to write a new album and book while she takes time to live in Korea next year.

As the last note of “Everybody Wants to Love You” echoed through the hall, the stage sank into darkness and they made their (temporary) exit. As the band returned for a few more songs, they treated the crowd with a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York.” Michelle quipped and said “This one’s just for you, New York — sing along if you know it.”

Stream Jubilee HERE.

Words by Conor Rooney


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