Last updated on September 5th, 2023 at 12:23 pm
Playing on a minimalist stage. Using monochromatic motifs. Appearing rather dormant during a 70-minute performance. For other bands, this might describe a bland performance, but Cigarettes After Sex displayed their subtle emotional sound to pierce The Armory’s darkness and delight a sold-out crowd in Minneapolis last night.
Though “sold out,” The Armory was not as filled as it was for the recent Arctic Monkeys concerts. Yet the audience size was perfect for the music of the three-member band, and the overwhelming ticket demand was still enough to move the show from The Palace.
The crowd was primarily younger, with a noticeably high amount of black X’s on the backs of hands. They were every bit into the smooth, emotional vibes of the lyrics and the show. This was especially evident by the amount of phone camera lights and video recording taking place.
Those lights from the audience added to the intimate feel and stark setting. The band played with a dominant amount of white back and side lighting against a black stage. In that darkness, extra lights beamed like bright stars in a dark sky.
Fittingly, their second song was a cover of Brooks and Dunn’s “Neon Moon.” Lead singer Greg Gonzalez sang under a solitary light, adding a melancholy layer to the already brokenhearted song: “…to watch your broken dreams dance in and out of the beams/of the neon moon.“
This juxtaposed against the following song, “You’re All I Want.” With a chorus of “we [expletive] so hot it left me faded,” the crowd’s collective voice rose in a titillating sing-along.
And that is the peculiar fascination of Cigarettes After Sex. There is a minimalism, at times monotony, to their music. Songs enter at one level and exit about the same. Drums are steady and almost subliminal. Guitar melts into your subconscious, devoid of sharp twangs and elevated solos.
But in this serenity, they deliver a spectrum from emotional romanticism to the pathos of loneliness. No wonder their music appears on the Spotify playlist called *end credits. There is a cinematic element to their performance and a sound that hits you like a movie soundtrack background.
After playing one of their newest songs, “Bubblegum,” fans cheered and/or screamed louder before subsequent tracks, “Cry,” “Sweet,” and “Sunsetz.” The show was not as prolonged as the 5 Seconds of Summer concert earlier this week. It was more brief, like the songs’ namesakes, but every bit as audible and emotional.
Gonzalez spoke little to the crowd, though he expressed thanks for the support over the years. He also stopped mid-song to make sure a concertgoer was OK, pausing while a spotlight shined on the crowd and the individual was tended to.
As the show progressed, cinematic elements played on the screen. A burning flower. A stormy sky. A tempestuous sea. All in the same continued motifs, yet each gently elevated the performance and added to the resonance of the lyrics: “…when you’re far away, I still feel it all.”
There was also a brief visual of a woman smoking. After sex? One can only surmise.
They closed with popular favorites like “Heavenly,” “Apocalypse,” and ultimately the encore “Opera House.” “Apocalypse” seemed to spur the highest number of phone recordings and the most pronounced singalong during “Got the music in you baby / Tell me why.”
And all throughout, Cigarettes After Sex swayed gently on the stage’s smoke-filled simplicity, with an unmistakable ambiance that arouses and releases. Was it good for you? Yes, it was.