What a trans­for­ma­tion for the flam­boy­ant musi­cian King Charles. Last year I saw him per­form in a church in Hack­ney, where a polite crowd clus­tered round the stage, sup­ping wine and sway­ing gently.

A year on, and he’s head­lin­ing at Shep­herd’s Bush. The place seems rammed to the rafters with the most excit­ed crowd I’ve seen in a long time. There’s a mixed audi­ence, with some in their 40s and upwards, some cou­ples in their 30s, and groups of ador­ing teenage girls.

King Charles bounds onto the stage. Gone are the flam­boy­ant frills and the frock coat. That’s not to say he’s changed his image and mor­phed into Liam Gal­lagher. He’s just a bit more pared down, with a bil­low­ing white shirt, twig legs encased in black tights, and of course, the hair. Swathes of it, up in a sort of mat­ted bird’s nest (that comes undone half way through).

The band pow­ers into the set which is ratch­eted up to loud, so the vocals are slight­ly muf­fled. Sec­ond song is Love­blood, which fea­tures King Charles’ much used calyp­so rhythm, over­laid with lots of sinewy gui­tar work. Then comes the choral refrain of Love Lust and the audi­ence starts to go wild. Down­stairs every­one is danc­ing joy­ous­ly, upstairs the heav­ing bal­conies are look­ing perilous.

Ivory Road, Mis­sis­sip­pi Isabel…  every­one seems to know all the words of all his songs. It looks like the West Lon­don home­boy can do no wrong. Next is the more folky, slight­ly Cal­i­for­nia soft-rock Coco Chit­ty, with its wist­ful cho­rus:  ‘I don’t need to see you to know how beau­ti­ful you are’. This for me was a high­light of the gig.

For an encore, King Charles’ choice is his ver­sion of We did­n’t start the Fire. His own lyrics, updat­ed since Bil­ly Joel’s time, fea­ture Islamists, Tom Cruise being gay, and a line about “Mag­gie Thatch­er laid to rest”, which caus­es an actu­al cheer to rip­ple through the crowd. I’m not sure if its because of amuse­ment of the top­i­cal­i­ty of the lyrics, or if it’s a cry of sup­port for the just-buried Iron lady, I’m hop­ing it’s the for­mer. My friend, who dis­likes the song, mum­bles some­thing about why does he want to send every­one home hum­ming a song writ­ten by some­one else?

IMG_0417He has the endorse­ment of Mum­ford & Son and deliv­ers a strong set of folk-tinged rock, with play­ful oper­at­ic, choral and calyp­so notes. But there’s some­thing that both­ers me about his image – maybe it stops him being tak­en seri­ous­ly, maybe it’s too defin­ing. But for now he’s got a grow­ing army of fans and a suc­cess­ful tour under his belt.

Link to Face­book offi­cial site

Album: Love­blood, May 2012

Sup­port: Gio­van­na; We Were Evergreen

One thought on “Review: King Charles at 02 Empire Shepherds Bush

  1. His ‘image’ is per­fect, it’s what marks him out as unique amongst the vast array of would be indie, neo folk, wannabes. We all love his image, he is a work of art from top to toe.

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