What does it mean to put on a live performance? Are musicians supposed to stay true to their original creation or provide an unforgettable experience that you can only find in a venue? The more shows I archive in my memory, the more I think about this question. Can a band perform their music note for note with no additions and still make for an incredible show? Like anything, the answer probably lies in some sort of grey area, but things got further scrambled watching Cigarettes After Sex at Brooklyn Steel.
To sum it up, they performed their album. That’s it. Almost as if they loaded the CD into the venue’s sound system, walked on stage, and pressed play. A Cigarettes After Sex show is exactly what it sounds like if you’re familiar with their music. But if you are, you know how beautiful it is. Lead singer Greg Gonzalez’s immaculate songwriting orchestrates the seemingly cosmic significance behind the smallest moments we spend with the people we fall in love with. And with his gentle yet giant riffs and textures, listening to somber tracks like “Apocalypse” feels like you have the whole galaxy to yourself.
Brooklyn Steel brought those textures to life with foggy, slow-moving white lights, but what other color did you expect to pair with such romanticism? Though they undulated slowly, the lights showed more movement than the band itself. Gonzalez occasionally stepped to one side of the stage and then to the other, but that’s it. Live, Cigarettes aren’t for those who are visually stimulated. When you’re in your bedroom alone and letting the chills of their music relax you into a daydream state, it’s easy to visualize what it looks like. But their shows put their music at the forefront of the experience and it can easily feel like you’re listening to your Spotify account in a large room.
Because I had nothing special to hold onto, the memory of the show started to fade away right as I stepped out of the venue. But, at the same time, it wasn’t forgettable. I still remember the chills from hearing the opening chords of “Sunsetz” starting the show. I remember the heartwarming sight of couples swaying slowly to the slow groove of “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You, Baby.” Cigarettes’ music is too wonderful to ever make for a lackluster show. But nothing’s going to shock you.