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Concert Review: Cigarettes After Sex’s Mumbai Show Was All #Feels

The American ambient pop band kept the banter to a minimum as they ran through an 11-song setlist at the city-based Royal Opera House

David Britto Jul 24, 2019

American ambient pop band Cigarettes After Sex performing at the first of their two shows at Mumbai's Royal Opera House on July 23rd 2019.

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The last time American ambient pop band Cigarettes After Sex was on Indian shores was at their debut gig in the country at Bacardi NH7 Weekender’s Pune edition in 2017. Although the band’s slow-burn music felt out of place on a big festival stage, the group was still one of the big draws at the event. For everyone who was seeing or even hearing them for the first time, it was a classic case of not knowing what the fuss was all about.

Earlier this year, Cigarettes After Sex – comprising vocalist-guitarist Greg Gonzalez, bassist Randy Miller and drummer Jacob Tomsky – announced a doubleheader at Mumbai’s Royal Opera House, a more intimate venue which suites their music better, on July 23rd and 24th. Tickets for both shows sold out reportedly within hours of going online, before many fans even knew that sales had begun. With this kind of hype behind it, we caught the band live at the first of their two sold out shows in Mumbai, performing an 11-song setlist.

Organized by Myntra Music Movement and Bengaluru venue The Humming Tree, the Royal Opera House’s courtyard was filled with activations that tied in JBL speakers, Simba beer, a food truck and even a counter selling Cigarettes After Sex merchandize. Upon entering the Opera House, we were seated at the topmost balcony which gave us a bird’s eye view of the stage.

The highly anticipated introduction went thus: At 8:50 pm the room went dark, with a bit of jazz music. Moments later, bright white lights came up on stage, with Cigarettes After Sex seen ready in their all-black attire. Fans erupted in screams as the band opened with their dreamy 2015 single “Affection.” Next, the group pulled out the stargazing “Each Time You Fall In Love” off their eponymous 2017 debut full-length album.

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There was little to no interaction from the band with the audience during their set with the exception of Gonzalez saying, “We love you, thanks for coming out” right after the second song. He walked gingerly across the stage and played guitar, joining the band in their well-worn emo demeanour that certainly sits well with the music.

The band moved on to their 2018 lullaby single “Crush” which featured a thick bass line from Miller and a delicate groove by Tomsky. There was a spine-tingling moment they built up to, performing the emotional “Opera House” at the Royal Opera House which was met with loud cheers. The slightly uptempo and simple “Sweet” gave fans a chance to sing along with Gonzalez.

Mid-set songs featured crowd-pleasers such as the melancholic “Sunsetz,” their 2016 lush single “K” and a dark cover of American rock band REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Loving You.” As soon as Miller played the opening notes to “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” fans knew at once that it was their hit 2012 track from their debut EP I. and began grooving to the charming song. The band left their magnum opus — the spacey “Apocalypse” — for late in their set, Gonzalez waving and thanking fans at the end of the night. Fans didn’t leave their seats though and a minute later Cigarettes After Sex came back out for an encore. The band ended the evening with their loudest song “Dreaming Of You” which even saw Gonzalez bust out a solo.

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While most attendees went home happy, we got thinking if Cigarettes After Sex make for an interesting live band. As comforting as it sounds to others, their music is mostly slow-paced and at times even dreary to sit through an entire show for. 

Sure, substances might enhance this sonic experience, but good music should be enjoyed in any state of mind. It’s obvious to most — and we’re hoping by now, to diehard fans also — that Cigarettes After Sex’s songs are too similar to each other. They could be playing “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” and you can sing the melody to “Affection” with ease. 

With a fanbase that’s spread around the globe, what we hope to see the band do in the future is a more dynamic set, changing it up now and then and bringing something fresh to the table. It is one thing to have streaming numbers through the roof with people having your music on loop while at home and it’s another thing to be a riveting live band, which sadly Cigarettes After Sex is not.

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