It’s half an hour after their alleged start time of 9pm, and Confidence Man are nowhere to be seen. An Australian 4-piece electropop band with a penchant for poking fun at society, I begin to wonder if this is just some kind of practical joke while they watch on from the dressing room… In hindsight, it probably wasn’t, but the uneasy start seemed fitting for what followed.
Two veiled figures bounce onto the stage, removing their shoes (yep) and assuming position behind the drums and synths. They kick things off with a lively instrumental, but with two microphones left unattended at the front of the stage, many of the crowd still seem unsure whether the gig has actually begun, with blinding phone screens (presumably checking up on babysitters) still dotted about the dance floor.
When the two vocalists, apparently named Janet Planet and Sugar Bones, finally surface, the phones blink off but the uncertainty lingers – the blank expressions on the singers’ faces suggesting that even they themselves have no idea what’s about to happen. Their opening tunes are explosive – almost abrupt, but frequent cruising breakdowns of warm synth chords give the crowd a chance to catch up. This is easier said than done though, with elastic and well-coordinated choreography from the two singers pausing only for a few outfit changes. The euphoric keyboard riffs could easily come from Primal Scream songs, while the accompanying sickly-sweet lyrics “Oh! My life can’t get no better!”, exclaimed with dead-pan severity, litter the performance with irony.
The band are blissfully self-aware, boasting of enamoured fans who “try to touch my hands when I walk to the bar” with the sarcastic wit of Courtney Barnett and the hubris of Right Said Fred. Often, as a fan stood on the other side of the barrier, you feel unsure whether it’s okay to laugh along at these jokes, or whether the band genuinely can’t stand the sight of you. They keep the crowd in the palm of their hand, at one point demanding of several innocent fans “You better sit down boy.” They had no choice but to oblige.
After two (or maybe three?) quick costume changes, serenaded by the veiled percussionists, came the standout moment of the gig. Planet and Bones slipped into some cool shades to tell the compelling story of the “party of the year”. C.O.O.L. Party sees Confidence Man at their strongest, with percussion giving a distinct carnival feel, backed up by a stick-in-your-head belting chorus. While Bones sprays the appreciative front row with champagne, Planet brags that “It’s the party of the year, and I know because I’ve been to heaps of parties.” The song seems to mock modern-day culture of Instagram exhibitionism, and with phone cameras capturing the stage from all angles, I once more feel like we’re the butt of the joke.
This is a band who love to play with the audience, always putting you on the back foot. As a result, there’s a fair chance I’ve got completely the wrong end of the stick. Nevertheless, it makes for a seriously fresh live set, and with only one album released so far, you get the sense that Confidence Man have a lot left to say.
By George Hodson
Image courtesy of Sam Wood.