Japanese Breakfast’s second London show in a week is pure jubilee

Japanese Breakfast bring alt-pop glory (and Jürgen, from GBBO) to Kentish Town

Selling out two London shows within a week – firstly at Hackney Church and again at Kentish Town Forum – is no mean feat, but it’s the kind of good fortune that Michelle Zauner, aka Japanese Breakfast, has welcomed since starting a new chapter of her life with her 2021 album Jubilee

Zauner’s career to date has largely been defined by the most significant event in her life: the death of her mother in 2014. Her raw Dead Oceans debut Psychopomp was embattled with the loss of her mother to cancer, with 2017’s Soft Sounds From Another Planet very much being a star-gazing exploration of where to find meaning in the universe after an intense grieving process. Jubilee, meanwhile, cherishes her journey and brings that chapter to an end with celebration. “It is about joy” said Zauner of her newest album, which bagged her two Grammy nominations, seeing her slide away from the melancholic indie/emo rock of old and into a new era of expression.

Japanese Breakfast originated as a creative outlet for Zauner (who is now also a best-selling author with Crying In H Mart on The New York Times bestseller list for over a year) and she’s seemingly purged the weight of emotion and confusion from losing her mum. She launched her second show in England’s capital with a declaration of her transformation – the optimistic war cry of Jubilee opener ‘Paprika’, complete with military drums was made even more emphatic by Zauner bashing an enormous gong throughout. 

Her 80s-inspired discotheque bop and glittering arpeggios of biggest track ‘Be Sweet’ came immediately after, as Zauner bounced through the first half of her set despite the bass regularly getting lost in the mix, which left some of her more energetic songs lacking a bit. It wasn’t an issue that Zauner was aware of, who received sincere whoops every time she picked up her guitar. 

She’s an artist who has gradually leant into her Korean heritage (decked out in garms designed by Simone Rocha, who was in attendance) and has become an idol for budding musicians and even video-gamers – she scored Sable and performed ‘Glider’ for a visibly giddy fanbase. 

One constant throughout her turbulent personal life has been her husband and guitarist Peter Bradley, the focus of her romantic gaze evident in ‘Posing In Bondage’, ‘Savage Good Boy’, and even the road-tripping raunch of ‘Road Head’. Their onstage chemistry is clear, Bradley being her source of reliability throughout. 

Television gets a look in too. Declaring her love of “The Great British Baking Show” (or The Great British Bake Off to us Brits), Zauner invited recent contestant Jürgen Krauss on stage for ‘Slide Tackle’ to play brass in a very kitsch move, before returning for an encore covering Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Romulus’ and a sweeping rendition of ‘Posing For Cars’. Bookending her set with the ever-dreamy Deerhunter-esque ‘Diving Woman’, it was a triumphant finish for Zauner who has perfectly soundtracked triumph in the face of tragedy.