I arrived at the Phoenix a couple minutes into the first opening act, a pleasant but generic indie band called Cavaliers. They were enjoyable enough in an unchallenging way (if you like head-bopping to Bombay Bicycle Club or Two Door Cinema Club), and they closed with a very catchy tune called If I Had 50p For Every Time You Stabbed Me In The Back, I’d Be Looking At At Least £8.60. Amusing.
Cavaliers were followed by a rather otherworldly young woman - Sasha Siem. This act began with eerie ambient music of the vaguely prog rock variety. What followed was something of a mystical journey, led by a figure blended of Alanis Morrissette, Shakira, and Pocahontas. At times, the music was like bad beat poetry set to random jazz. At times, it was sumptuous and beautiful, incorporating classical elements (have a listen to the wonderful track, My Friend), and though she was certainly captivating, I remained somewhat unconvinced by Sasha Siem.
Finally, as the crowd began to grow restless, the King marched on stage. He started his set bravely with a new song, the quietly beautiful Carry Me Away. I’ll have it known that I love this song. It was the first thing that got me really excited about King Charles’ upcoming album (the second thing was this gig). Charles’ voice was clear and resounding on this ballad and his electric guitar, the sole accompaniment, was crisp and full.
This was followed by a couple of King Charles classics, including the bouncy Mississippi Isabel, which was extended with a thrilling guitar solo. The audience was then given the treat of hearing a few new songs for the first time. These had a much heavier and darker sound than I’ve heard from KC before now. It seemed more 70s-inspired at times and featured much more prominent guitar solos, which were superb. After about five new songs though, it felt like the crowd wanted a familiar one. Excellent renditions of Bam Bam, Lady Percy, and LoveBlood were performed accordingly and the crowd danced joyfully and flailing-ly (or at least I did). The King left stage for that awkward, seemingly mandatory 5 minute period where the audience asks for an encore. He then returned, like a dutiful rock star, and delivered an impeccable finale with the little-known but lovely Beating Hearts, and, of course, the epic LoveLust. He even threw in an unfinished song he was in the process of writing. Though I was a tad disappointed that the song Polar Bear had been snubbed by the set list, I left the gig more than satisfied.
After the concert had finished, it was announced that Charles would be in the foyer for ‘banter’. This was taken largely as permission for a bunch of random people to shove camera phones into the face of a total stranger. Nonetheless, I got in line, deciding that I’d get the journalistic scoop by asking a question. “Hello! I was wondering, do you have a favourite song to perform live?” I asked meekly when I finally reached the King. “Uh… yeah” he said, while posing for a photo. “Um, which one is it?” I prompted. He seemed confused. “I don’t know,” he responded blankly. Ah well, I tried.
All the same, despite shutting me down for trying to actually talk to him, King Charles did put on a fantastic show, playing nearly all of the beloved songs from his first album, and previewing some very exciting material from his upcoming release. I’m confident that good things are on the way for our dear King.