Japanese Breakfast with Luna Li

Majestic Theater Madison WI September 18th, 2021
by John Noyd
Posted: Sep 2021
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Japanese Breakfast Majestic Theater Madison WI 9/18/21 - photo by Dave Robbins

Japanese Breakfast Majestic Theater Madison WI 9/18/21 - photo by Dave Robbins

For some reason Japanese Breakfast has always played Madison in September; from 2016 – 2018 they played the High Noon Saloon, UW’s The Sett and Majestic Theater. So, when Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner announced after the first song how cold she felt, I wondered if in their three-year absence she had forgotten what September was like in Wisconsin. A crisp night and a near full moon greeted the band’s fourth visit to Madison and a sold-out return to the Majestic, where whatever cold may have visited the band was soon removed by warm love filling the venue.

Madison holds a special place for Michelle, whose first Yelp review ever was to praise East Washington’s Five Star Barbecue. Sticking to her praise, she dedicated the closing number, “Everybody Wants To Love You,” to the Korean restaurant. Food is very special to Michelle, as detailed in her recent New York Times best seller, “Crying in H Mart,” and it seems only natural the only dedication of the night would be to a restaurant.

Kicking off the evening literally banging a gong to the new exuberant, “ Paprika,” Zauner danced and bopped from start to finish, exuding uncoiled joy with a distinct poignancy slipped inside her irrepressible bounce. An open-arm charmer welcoming everyone to share and care, the frontperson and principal songwriter guided the crack unit from swinging innocence to curried fury. The setlist focused on this summer’s radiant, “Jubilee,” with bassist Deven Craige and guitarist Peter Bradley anchoring an enthusiastic band that was finally getting a chance to play these songs live.

Expertly accentuated by a violinist and saxophonist, who also doubled on percussion and keyboards, the new material sounded wonderful and the half dozen songs from JB’s first two albums sounded powerful and rejuvenated. A special treat for Madison was, “Ballad 0,” a Bumper cover, from Michelle’s 2020 side project with Crying’s Ryan Galloway. A personal favorite, “Posing for Cars,” made for a beautiful encore. Beginning with Zauner alone on guitar, the band members slowly joined in to create an incredible frenzy, lifting the audience with climatic passion before depositing them happily enraptured.

Sparkly opener Luna Li was a perfect choice to start the show. A multi-instrumentalist with a sweet voice, her nimble pixie-pop paved the way to an upbeat night full of swooning communion climbing vibrant heights.