Cigarettes After Sex
8th January 2018
Powerstation, Auckland, New Zealand.
Review & Photography by Sarah Kidd.
The New Year has barely begun with many Kiwi’s still trying to grapple with the drain of being back at work, so a concert featuring a set of spellbinding and cathartic songs was just what the doctor ordered for the hundreds that made their way to The Powerstation tonight.
Cigarettes After Sex are three little words that conjure images of languid afternoons where tangled bed sheets are the attire of choice. For the fans tonight, those same three words instead bring tingles of excitement as the band hailing from El Paso, Texas play New Zealand for the first time. Formed in 2008, Cigarettes After Sex have slowly gained notoriety through the wonders of YouTube and have amassed millions of views since. With an EP released in 2012, several singles and now their much celebrated self-titled album under their belt, the four piece are in hot demand as proved by their sold out run across Australia. Earlier in the evening the band carried out what can only be described as a heartfelt and selfless act, the group putting the call out over their Facebook page that they would be available at six o’clock to meet and greet any of their fans under the age of eighteen who were unable to see the show – a gesture that will long live on in the hearts of those who attended.
With no support band, fans who had arrived as the doors opened for the evening were serenaded instead by the sound system playing a multitude of classic tracks; music from the likes of The Beach Boys seeming rather fitting for a summer evening in Auckland. The stage itself is bathed in red light, a Virus TI synthesizer standing alone on the left while behind it hid one of the smallest drum kits to be seen on the floorboards of the iconic venue in quite a while. And yet the simplicity of this view does not disappoint, instead it tantalizes even more as it becomes quickly apparent that tonight will be all about the music; there will be no falling back on gimmicks or visual aids. Cigarettes After Sex will lay themselves bare for one and all to see.
As the lights came down and cheering rumbled its way forward from the mouths of those in attendance, the four piece casually made their way out onto the stage, dressed in black, a languishing carefree air coiling about the smoke that slipped in behind them. The stage, now delicately draped in creamy white lighting seemed to whisper sweet nothings to the audience as a momentary hush fell over them; lead singer Greg Gonzalez stepping up to the microphone and with a simple nod of acknowledgement singing the opening lines of ‘Sweet’ – a song that he himself in a recent interview with Ambient Light confesses to being the one track that he believes sums up exactly who Cigarettes After Sex are as a band. Many of the audience members cannot contain themselves and applaud loudly upon hearing the opening notes; others close their eyes and silently sway where they stand, carried away by the sultry and yet strangely androgynous tones of Gonzalez’s voice. Indeed Gonzalez prides himself on presenting fans with a “very faithful version of the record” live; this is certainly not the band to come and see if you are expecting energetic stage antics. And yet each member, almost locked away in their own little invisible boxes commands attention in the most subtle of ways.
Whether it is the intense gaze of keyboard player Phillip Tubbs, the stature of bassist Randy Miller or the rhythmic and almost indolent drumming of Jacob Tomsky; there is something to draw the eye of each audience member. As the front man, Gonzalez often looks lost within the realms of his own intricate songwriting, his eyes closed, with nothing more than a slightly raised eyebrow and the beginnings of a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth to hint at what he might be thinking. The eyebrow lift certainly became more pronounced however as the band moved into ‘Young & Dumb’, the track (a love song between a couple who are completely at ease with one another) prompting several of the fans in the front row to sing along to the pre-chorus with gusto; Gonzalez appearing bemused with their efforts.
It is certainly easy to see why the band are often referred to with the adjective ‘dreamy’; while unfortunately one of the most overused terms of 2017, here it is completely apt as the band effortlessly melds one song into another; each track uniquely individual and yet a piece of a larger linear sound overall. Not even a bra launched onto the stage by an enthusiastic fan donning a t-shirt of the punk rock band Joyce Manor could interrupt the flow of the music; although it certainly generated a few cheers from the audience. A cover of the 1980 REO Speedwagon track ‘Keep On Loving you’ lead the fans into the end of the set, Cigarettes After Sex finishing on arguably one of their most popular songs ‘Apocalypse’.
Unlike many of the Australian audiences, an encore was loudly demanded by the New Zealand crowd and dutifully provided; the band returning in much the same manner as they first appeared on stage. Despite the exuberant chanting of a small group of punters desperate to hear ‘John Wayne’, the band concluded the evening with the stunning ‘Dreaming Of You’ from their 2012 EP simply titled I. With a small wave and a “Thank you”, the band once again exited the stage, the last wisps of smoke following at their heels as if it really was all just a dream.
Proving that music is indeed medicinal therapy for the soul, fans ambled out into the cool night air looking both sated and far more at peace with the world … well until that morning alarm goes off anyway.
Were you there at the Powerstation for this magnificent ambient pop showcase? Or have you seen Cigarettes After Sex somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below!
- Each Time You Fall In Love
- Young & Dumb
- I’m A Firefighter
- Opera House
- Keep On Loving You [REO Speedwagon Cover]
- Nothings Gonna Hurt You Babe
- Dreaming Of You [Encore]