Japanese Breakfast Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON, July 18

Japanese Breakfast Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON, July 18
Photo: Jennifer Hyc
Japanese Breakfast initially announced the Toronto stop of her latest headlining stint to be at Lee's Palace, but quickly out-sold that and opted for the Phoenix Concert Theatre and Michelle Zauner and company managed to sell out the much larger space too.
"I'm just really, really fucking stoked on that," Zauner reflected during the show. "It is hard for me to get over this idea that nobody is going to come to the show. It's a feeling I've had my whole life." She could not have been more wrong.
Zauner took to the Phoenix stage in a shining silver dress with puffed sleeves while a sample of "Planetary Ambience" off her indie-pop brainchild's 2017 release Soft Sounds from Another Planet played. Mostly by namesake, the unassuming interlude managed to set the early pace of her current sound and aesthetic. She sings of extraterrestrial love and hardships on planet Earth while navigating fierce pop-rock tracks and Auto-Tuned crooning with little indecision.
Recent singles "Road Head" and "Machinist" received immense audible praise from the brimming crowd, while gloomy ballad "This House" showcased the departure from distortion pedals and vocoders in favour of sombre sincerity. With a meek announcement — "And now we return to the rock" — Zauner and her band executed cheery melodies from 2016 cuts "Heft" and "In Heaven." Both Psychopomp tracks are two years old and lack the lush experimentation of her 2017 pizazz, but demonstrate that Zauner can write honest rock music and spacy electronic tunes and put both on display without many stumbles.
Zauner's stage banter touched on Animorphs, Flaming Hot Cheetos and robot romance, but was mostly was a humble demonstration of Japanese Breakfast's growth in the last two years.
"This sure is bigger than the Silver Dollar Room, but we certainly remember our residency there," said Zauner preceding a story of the now-vacant venue's sound guy throwing a chair at in-house promoter Dan Burke during their sound check.
A surprise came in the form of her new song "2042," with half-baked, droning melodies that felt scattered and unconvincing. Later on, "Everybody Wants to Love You" became an irritable earworm as the group's drummer offered pitchy background vocals that diverted from the song's preliminary quirks.
Japanese Breakfast concluded their set with an encore of the Cranberries' "Dreams." The track was certainly more cherished than a certain other artist who contributed covers to the Spotify Singles collection, and the Toronto spectators were equally as appreciative. The group's rendition felt chilling, as late Cranberries vocalist Dolores O'Riordan split her time between Ireland and a remote area of Ontario's Kawartha Lakes, even spending some of her final months in Toronto on holiday. Despite Zauner fumbling some of the second verse's lyrics, Japanese Breakfast's audience mostly handled vocal duties anyways; an apt representation of the Phoenix's ratifying demeanour throughout the evening.