With no support act, Cigarettes After Sex came out on stage orderly and wordless, quietly poised to make the night solely their own as they laid a hazy shade of sensuality over the crowd that mirrored the grey and dreary weather in Toronto on Wednesday (October 11).
"Watching the video that you sent me, the one where you're showering with wet hair dripping," were the first words band leader Greg Gonzalez crooned for the all-ages, sold-out audience — the opening lines of "Sweet," from the band's self-titled debut album, released a few months ago. On their own, Gonzalez's seductive lyrics can come off as a bit cringe-worthy, but complemented by the smoke-ringed musical precision of the quartet, Cigarettes After Sex were all about strictly maintaining their hushed, sexually tense aesthetic.
The Brooklyn, New York via El Paso, Texas project put Gonzalez's gentle, androgynous voice firmly front and centre, with other parts of the band subdued to an optimal level to create a soothing, moonlit atmosphere. On the album's first single "K.," a song about a long distance relationship that fell apart, bassist Randy Miller and drummer Jacob Tomsky brought their elastic tempo way down, smoothing out a path for Gonzalez to lament, with his eyes closed, "Think I like you best when you're dressed in black from head to toe, think I like you best when you're just with me and no one else."
Almost all of Cigarettes After Sex's songs feature the same calm but intensely intimate vibe, but the show sometimes seemed to plod a bit too slow in their melancholy, meditative trance. Yet, despite there being little variation in Cigarettes After Sex's material, certain songs were still satisfying to see live, as the band were just as tight in concert as they are on record.
"Nothing's Gonna Hurt You Baby" from their 2012 debut EP I. was perfectly balanced with Gonzalez's lightly strummed guitar and Tomsky's tic-tac-toe percussion. Album highlight "Each Time You Fall in Love" saw the audience slowly sway to keyboardist Phillip Tubbs' reverberated, quivering electronic ambience. The sweeping "Flash" prompted many to sing along to the repeated mantra of "you gotta do the right thing, baby," as Gonzalez sedately ambled around the stage. The band's sultry reinvention of REO Speedwagon's "Keep on Loving You" was very well done, and lyrically made sense given Cigarettes After Sex's motif of unrequited infatuations.
Cigarettes After Sex is a very dramatic pop band with a clear aim of delivering incredibly close and tender songs filled with heartbreak and casual eroticism. And on a stage filled with fog, dim lights and blurry projections of falling snow and close-ups of a woman's face, the four-piece played the part nicely.