King Charles - Engine Rooms, Southampton
A young crowd at The Engine Rooms in Southampton were in attendance for His Highness of folk/rock King Charles (or Charles Costa as his family named him). Backed by his darkly clothed band Charles looks a different beast minus his trademark dreads and extravagant facial hair. He still looks the part with a gloriously tasteless gold lame waist coat and white shirt, pretty much ignoring his loyal subjects by going straight into the fantastic 'Loose Change For the Boatman', from Gamble for a Rose. The new material isn't as audience-friendly as his debut, Love Blood and it takes that albums title track to really get the crowd going. Sadly this also had the effect of woking up the drunks who found themselves down the front shouting their "banter" throughout, whilst jumping on the fey, unsuspecting Charles fans.
There was little chat from the stage throughout and the set list would see-saw between new songs then crowd favourites. Charles is a natural showman and enjoyed breaking out into Eddie Van Halen-style solos. When just alone onstage armed with a guitar, his voice is a real gift, one that delivers some truly beautiful moments. As time moves on the energy grows and old hits like 'Bam Bam' and 'Mississippi Isabel' galvanize the crowd to singing loud and proud to the chorus, arms waving above in perfect out-of-time unison. Of the latest material 'Choke', St Peter's Gate' and the stonking 'Lady of the River' recieve a wondrous reaction with Charles breaking his silence at this point just to say: "thank you Southampton". But there are no chirpy anecdotes like support act Ryan O Reily had spoilt us with earlier. That said what King Charles lacks in chat he more than makes up for with stage-craft and we are treated to an unexpected encore, although half a dozen impatient punters could not even wait for the two minute break for their hero to return. This isn't exactly Wembley stadium!
The band ended with 'Love Lust' - an early Valentines treat oh, but what a treat. A glorious, full colour, engaging version that shocked the Engine Room to a frenzy so much so that at one point a fan attempts to crowd surf before having his mind quickly changed by hawk-eyed security. We scream "fire" at the band repeatedly due to this being the lyrics and just maybe due to the dread-less main man being on fire himself. We leave hoping for another Royal visit very soon.