Thursday, January 18, 2018

Gig Review: Cigarettes After Sex, Powerstation, Auckland, 8 January 2018

Happy 2018. It’s been a while, and things have been a bit slow around here lately. But I’ve been on holiday. I’ve been permanently drunk. And I’ve been growing a beard. I’m prepared to apologise for only one of these things.

I’ve also been up in Auckland. As recently as last week, in fact. Primarily for the Cigarettes After Sex gig at the Powerstation, and to take a sneaky peek at the recently relocated Real Groovy Records. I had intended to write a timely review, but in truth, more than a week later, I’m still not really sure how I feel about the gig.

On one hand it was quite lovely – flawlessly crafted pop tunes, played to an almost full venue by an immaculately presented clad-in-black band at the absolute peak of its powers. Everything was note perfect, intimate, and the dark and rather solemn stage aesthetic – lighting included – generally matched the sparse emo-flecked nature of the music on offer. The band’s set was pretty much its entire discography – twelve songs, plus a one song encore. The whole thing was blissfully unhurried. An exercise in subtle slowly building intensity. Peaking with masterful take on ‘Apocalypse’.

On the other hand, an entire discography, in this instance, amounts to a gig lasting just a few ticks over an hour. One solitary hour. With no support band on offer. With no new tunes unveiled. With barely a word spoken throughout the set. And that post-‘Apocalypse’ encore turned out to be an anti-climactic ‘Dreaming of You’, from the lesser spotted 2012 EP release. Bar some gentle swaying, nobody danced, and it was the sort of night where I kept waiting for something else to happen. A harsher critic might be moved to describe the whole event as being a little sterile and lifeless, even.

Whatever the case, I left the venue with a sense of needing more. A little bit like how a recovering nicotine addict might feel after having unsatisfactory sex. At the same time, Cigarettes After Sex delivered everything I could realistically expect from an ambient dream-pop outfit specialising in the delicate art of seduction. I knew exactly what the El Paso popsters offered before I bought tickets. I just blindly hoped for something more, so it’s pointless grumbling about it now.

At the very least, it had me thinking about how conditioned I’ve become to expect a more raucous live music experience – be it bold and funky, or in terms of pure raw rock n roll. I guess I just need more energy from a live band, whatever the genre. Or perhaps it’s just that unrealistic expectation is, without question, the mother of all disappointment.

I remain a fan, the band’s self-titled album was one of my stick-on favourites from 2017, and I can scarcely wait for any new recorded material. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be in any great hurry to buy concert tickets next time they visit this part of the world.   

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