King Charles (born Charles Costa) captivated fans at Oran Mor on the 18th night of his 28-day tour of the UK. Charles’ album Loveblood, released in 2012, is an eclectic mix of indie pop and melodic folk, which one might describe as something akin to Vampire Weekend on holiday in the Caribbean. Charles has put his classical singing training to use, having already touring with names such as Mumford and Sons and Noah and the Whale early in his career. As a recent convert to King Charles, asked to accompany a friend to the concert, I naturally spent the week before profusely thrashing the album on Spotify and was delighted with what I heard. Unbeknownst to us, we were in for a real treat when we saw him live.
From the first impression of his album art, I half expected Charles to be dressed as a pirate or 17th century nobleman, but he appeared on stage demurely in a brown tweed jacket and black velvet pants. He looked simply like a “well-dressed old man” as one concert goer described him, which allowed the rawness of his voice to take centre stage rather than his usual conversation-starting appearance.
I found the concert far better than the album. Performing live provided Charles the opportunity to take liberties with the songs and perform stripped back acoustic versions, revealing his truly soulful voice. Opening with new tune Carry Me Away, he then jumped into crowd favourites Mississippi Isabel and Brightest Lights before changing tack to slightly darker Coco Chitty – the anomaly of the otherwise chirpy Loveblood album, which displays the extensive range of Charles’ soothing voice.
From my prime real estate in the second row, I had a clear view of his stage antics. A mover and a shaker, he repeatedly pounced on the drums, whipping his voluminous mop of hair back and forth to the snappy beat of his tunes. Never a dull moment, at one point while I was sure I was hallucinating, a bystander confirmed that yes, he was indeed playing his guitar with a spoon.
King Charles kindly introduced us to a series of his new songs, Loose Change For the Boatman, Bright Thing and Choke, which the crowd loved instantly. While as catchy as their predecessors, they seem slightly more hardened and reserved than Loveblood. Gamble, in particular (which bears traces of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers), shows a more sensitive side to the singer, and holds promise for what is to come in the future. The set displayed plenty of variety, with a changing pace and tempo during each song, keeping the crowd on their toes.
Ivory Road is a perfect example, switching between mournful and brooding verses, an upbeat, peppy chorus and closing with a belting ballad. I also enjoyed his frequent talk-singing, especially in the verses of Lady Percy and Bam Bam. Such quick-tongues melodies are reminiscent of fellow Brits Ed Sheeran and Passenger.
Those around me spent the entire concert videoing through their iPhones rather than appreciating the live version, as is characteristic of this generation. I instead opted to embark upon a limb flying dance routine to the alarm of those around me. However, I have to say I was impressed with the general consideration of the concertgoers. There was absolutely no excessive moshing, a nuisance guaranteed for gigs at home (New Zealand) and an occurrence which can easily ruin the whole experience. In the words of King Charles, “thank you, Glasgow”.
Another bonus was Charles’ taking the time afterwards to pose for photos and autographs, which was taken advantage of by his many fans. He appeared a little distant (euphemism for rude) in person, informing us that we were “lucky to get our tickets signed”. However, I suppose such fatigue is expected after sustaining his levels of energy for nearly 3 weeks straight and many other artists would not spare the time to mingle like this. That said, while his PR people may have thought this seeming act of generosity would boost Charles’ image, it was the low point of the night and significantly lowered my opinion of him. In future he should probably remain backstage and keep his reputation intact.
But overall, it was an incredible gig, exceeding all expectations and leaving the crowd panting for more. Within the hour, I had been converted from a casual attendee to a somewhat obsessive fan. My only complaints would be that mentioned above, and that the night ended too soon, leaving me to skulk home and settle for sticking the album on repeat. With his next album soon to be released, I can only wait in anticipation for what is sure to be another success for King Charles.