Live Review: Confidence Man @ Rescue Rooms

Caradoc Gayer reviews Confidence Man's electrifying performance at Nottingham's Rescue Rooms.

It was a Tuesday night, and Confidence Man were in town. Over the previous few months, I’d caught onto the buzz surrounding their recent second album Tilt, and proceeded to watch lots of YouTube clips of their renowned live show. I thought I had some idea of what I’d be seeing, but didn’t quite anticipate the sheer electricity in the air at Rescue Rooms.

I immediately noticed the crowd’s age-diversity. No doubt, both Confidence Man albums are rich with 1980s and 1990s nostalgia, but feel entirely new at the same time. The opening act, an Italian duo named Mind Enterprises, seemed well chosen to set up the idiosyncratic vibe: they made quite an impression as they walked onstage, one bearing a likeness to Dieter Meier of the 80s band Yello, the other to Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip. Armed with a minimalist synth and drum machine set-up, the duo played some irresistibly-funky synthpop jams, getting heart rates up, and maintaining a suitable dose of campiness and tongue-in-cheek-ness, which we’d be soon be getting a lot more of.

Mind Enterprises exited offstage to strong applause, and soon enough, the lights dimmed. First onstage were the masked keyboardist and drummer, who have hitherto dubbed themselves Clarence and Reggie, supposedly two well-known musicians in the band’s native Australia. Then, out came the two frontpeople, Janet Planet and Sugar Bones. They were dressed in dark suits with enormous shoulder pads: an unexpected, but not unwelcome reference to the 1984 Talking Heads concert-film, Stop Making Sense. The band jumped straight into Toy Boy, a track from their new album. The song was the best set opener I’d seen in a while: the pounding garage beat and playful piano chords providing an upbeat contrast to Janet and Sugar’s tight minimalistic dance moves, and dour expressions. The two exuded an infectious confidence, which peaked in the catchy chorus, the refrain of which, ''all my people, where you at?'', seemed like a perfect opening statement for the set, as we would be dancing alongside the band members for the whole hour and a half.

They were dressed in dark suits with enormous shoulder pads: an unexpected, but not unwelcome reference to the 1984 Talking Heads concert-film, Stop Making Sense

Janet and Sugar excelled at keeping the crowd engaged, throughout the set’s twists and turns. Sometimes, they’d shimmy offstage, and give the ominous backgrounded figures of Clarence and Reggie, some time to shine. The latter two would play some soul-shaking synth and drum grooves, all instrumental and reminiscent of New Order or Orbital electropop: grooves that were so good, I’d have easily listened to a whole show of them. Inevitably, Janet and Sugar would make their way back onstage, dressed ever more flamboyantly be it the disco-light-apparel of Feels Like a Different Thing, the return of the David-Byrne-suits in Angry Girl, or the leopard print and billowy shirt of Holiday. The whole setup was absurdly theatrical and wonderful, making for the feeling of a different persona for every song.

The biting sardonicism of tracks like Angry Girl and C.O.O.L Party is all the better when Janet delivers it in person, and she’s no less electrifyingly charismatic in the bigger, more vocally acrobatic tunes, like Better Sit-Down Boy and Out the Window. Meanwhile, Sugar has his moments to shine, like in Holiday, and gets fantastically suave in What I Like. However, what’s really admirable is his synergy with Janet, whereby his laidback, yet captivating stage presence enhances hers: he puts his all into letting her do her thing, which is honestly one of the most invaluable parts of the show.

Holiday, the big single off of Tilt, was played towards the end, the huge opening-synth-chords making it feel like an Australian summer in this dark-midlands venue. The band’s departure offstage was almost immediately followed by a ''one-more-song'' chant, which brought them onstage again, to close the show with the ravey Does it Make You Feel Good? that left the crowd totally breathless.

Throughout the show, I felt like I’d been transported somewhere else, and was sad to be leaving that realm of disco-lights and 90s rave. Nevertheless, I was also enriched by the show, in a way that I felt was unique to seeing the band live. At the time I was deep in coursework stress for university, writing my way towards the end of my second year, and generally trying to get my life in order. Luckily, the sheer euphoria of the show gave me an extra boost. I started to finish my work with a renewed optimism, somewhat informed by the immortal words of the band’s Insta bio: ''it’s just confidence, man.''

Caradoc Gayer


Edited by: Amrit Virdi

Featured image and in-article images and videos courtesy of Confidence Man via Facebook and YouTube.