To quote the Cigarettes After Sex song “Heavenly,” “This is where I want to be / Where it’s so sweet and heavenly.” This was certainly true during the dream pop band’s recent performance in Forest Hills Stadium last Saturday, Sept. 15, with a short but absolutely amazing performance.
Their largest show yet, the nearly 13,000 attendees were treated to a set list featuring all the band’s biggest hits, including “Apocalypse,” “K.,” “Sunsetz,” “Cry” and “Sweet.”
Cigarettes After Sex produces slow, sad songs that are equal parts romantic, intimate and intense. Their lyrics touch upon hard-to-stomach elements of romance, like unrequited love and an inability to commit. They delve into the intimacies of sex but equally the grief of it.
Their band name perfectly describes the feeling they evoke, a mournful yet light sensation paired with fierce passion. Their song, “K.,” captures this emotion: “We had made love earlier that day with no strings attached, / But I could tell that something had changed how you looked at me then.” Their tone is somehow reminiscent of elegies, yet much more sensual, and this unique evocation was clearly present throughout the show.
This concert broke the mold of stereotypical concerts: the superstar model diving on stage in various gorgeous outfits, a crowd consistently going wild and complete with huge effects. The band generally remained in the same spot throughout the concert, and the extent of the “effects” was a spotlight and a screen behind them, which occasionally displayed stars or burning flowers, for instance.
Though this may create an overly static environment for some, this style of performance is very appropriate for Cigarettes After Sex’s musical style. Many of their songs have a similar emotion to them: they never try too hard to make everything feel new and improved, but they have developed a strong formula and stick to it.
During the concert, the band took a very methodical approach to their performance. After every song, they took a momentary pause where all lights and sound would die out. This created an aura of intensity, compelling the audience to ask what song would be next.
As the anticipation for the next song in the set swelled in the audience, they started to bang their feet on the stands, creating a literal drum of excitement. As the next song began, the audience would recognize the song the band was playing and start screaming.
The audience — admittedly including myself — yelled and clapped just to hear their favorite songs being played. As the song built, the shouting shifted to singing as the entire crowd harmonized with the band.
There were people of all ages in the audience, with families, lovers, friends and even solo concert-goers filling the venue. Regardless of who they were with, the crowd all gently swayed to the same passionate and wistful songs.
The concert was emotional, to say the least. Tears rolled down the audience’s cheeks as memories replayed in their minds. People’s eyes showed flashes of rememberings that connected them — car rides, walks in the park, showers and more — as they resonated with the music playing on stage. Some people in the audience took advantage of this palpable emotion, and someone even took the opportunity to propose to their partner.
While the concert itself was fantastic, the logistics of the venue were more complicated. Although the band’s merch was great and aptly represented Cigarettes After Sex’s public image, the line for purchasing said merch was more of a chaotic crowd than a line.
The parking situation was also a chaotic mess. Finding parking was a challenge to begin with, and exiting the venue after the concert took far longer than expected.
The concert also started an hour late and only lasted about an hour, from 8:30 to 9:45 p.m. While the brevity was certainly not a complete dealbreaker, the crowd was clearly confused about the short set list of the concert.
Overall, the Cigarettes After Sex concert in Queens, N.Y. provided a perfect taste of the band’s uniquely emotional style and offered a space for genuine connection between concertgoers. Leaving the stadium, I listened to the crowd, and one sentiment echoed through the night, covered by stars, serenaded by heavenly music: “I’ll never forget this.”