Cigarettes After Sex mark their UK return with a classy showcase of elegant songwriting and alluring aesthetic

Ebru Yildiz

Cigarettes After Sex mark their UK return with a classy showcase of elegant songwriting and alluring aesthetic

- By Matt Rushton

The last time Cigarettes After Sex played a headline show in the UK was in a pre-Covid world, and the extensive queue line full of eager fans outside of Manchester’s O2 Apollo on the first night of the band’s return tour is hard proof of just how much they’ve been missed on these shores.

The band’s last time out here in 2019 was in support of the album Cry, released only a month prior. Whilst no new album has surfaced since then, fans have been treated and teased with a collection of new songs that do make an appearance tonight and get a loving reception, yet also a seeming longing for a full-length to appear just around the corner.

With no support act playing, the Apollo - with an Art Deco vibe matching the aesthetic and sound of the band themselves - is bustling with hungry fans, and when the trio take the stage nearly a full two hours after doors, the excitement is audibly released in the form of deafening screams, and there’s definitely a few die-hards here who’ve already let out a stray tear or two.

Staple set-starter ‘Crush’ is indeed the opener here too, and the song paves the way for the rest of the set with many of the enamored audience singing every word to every number. The band’s subdued elegance in their on-stage aesthetic and sound continues through the next 90 minutes too, frontman Greg Gonzalez barely breaking stride between tracks to talk allowing the set to flow and feel like a full sensory journey for the band and crowd alike.

Bassist Randall Miller and drummer Jacob Tomsky do a beautiful job of filling out the band’s minimalist sound to the perfect level whilst also getting a deserved rousing reception to their own parts which come to shine. A highlight of course though is Gonzalez’ ethereal vocal delivery, and on the occasions where he steps out of his spotlight (the stage lighting all night is fantastic in creating a dreamy aura that never feels invasive) to heighten his guitar tone and deliver some stirring, introspective solos, he’s met with the kind of ovation that true virtuosos of the scene receive.

The crowd demographic here is as wide as you’d expect with a band so uncaring of fitting into any particular scene. Bands making music as airy as Cigarettes After Sex don’t often get as big as these have, and that’s excellently translated into their fans coming from all backgrounds and walks of life. Songs like ‘Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby’ and ‘Sweet’ obviously go down a treat, while closing out the main set with three of their most loved songs in ‘Heavenly’, ‘K.’ and ‘Apocalypse’ is a bold statement and proves just how admired their still fairly limited discography is given that this run manages to elicit even more energy from a near fulfilled crowd.

The group don’t even have time to leave the stage before chants of “one more song” ring out, and they duly deliver in the form of ‘Opera House’ - beautifully fitting in a venue which by its graceful appearance could easily once have been one itself. Overall here, Cigarettes After Sex prove themselves as a band destined to become in the UK as big as they are Stateside in the not too distant future, and as thus, imagining that this will be the last time they’re seen here in venues of this size solidifies what has been a wonderful night all round.

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