"We'd like to thank you all for wearing masks and caring about each other. We've been out of work for two years now and are so happy to be able to be doing this again."
Those words, spoken softly and earnestly by Japanese Breakfast creator Michelle Zauner halfway through the set Friday night at Denver's Ogden Theater, drove home a point many have been learning, which is to say we've all been adjusting. She mentions the new reality during this period of our lives, but still, it's refreshing to be able to start experiencing music in a live setting again.
I mention this because despite all the new and ever-changing dynamics in our world, many like myself still need music present in their lives. The last year of not seeing performers perform has hurt many of us, but no more than the performers whose lives depend on their touring success.
In that regard, Zauner's statement rang true. Since shows opened back up a few months ago, I've been able to see a few great performances and, with each of those, you could tell the artists were thrilled to be back performing. This tour, which runs through next month, has seen Japanese Breakfast display the recently released Jubilee record in a tantalizing, slow, and gradual manner. It's a manner that really helps the songs breathe in a different way than they do on records. Honestly, I wasn't in love with Jubilee, but listening to it again at the show gave to me a different type of enjoyment than I did initially, which is always great.
Opening the evening was relative newcomer Luna Li, who along with her band pushed through an eclectic and widely ranging set that seemed to go over well with the ever-growing crowd at the Ogden. I'd never heard of Li before, but she's definitely an artist to watch out for, as her classically trained background and her featuring a violin and other elegant instruments were a welcome change to the somewhat sameness of female-led indie rock.
Still, JB was the main attraction for the vast majority of attendants. Coming out under a hazy dark cloud of fog, Zauner and company eased into the surreal tranquility of "Paprika," before then rocking out the crowd with a lively version of "Be Sweet," which everyone was dancing and singing along to.
Further through the set, Zauner took time to speak to the crowd, while making her way to a lovely version of Parton's "Here You Come Again," which I loved, but it seemed like the crowd wasn't really feeling it. Looking out at the audience, almost no one was dancing or singing along, but it is what it is. But seriously, how do people live unaware of Parton's awesomeness?
Either way, the show had a remarkably fresh feeling of excitement, and when watching the crowd and band, you could feel everyone's gratitude. So while we're all happy to just be out in the world again, it was even better to get to see JB deliver a new fresh sounding set, while still sprinkling in older but still beloved tracks like "Boyish" and "Road Head."