Review: King Charles at Engine Rooms, Southampton

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The simplicity of Southampton’s Engine Rooms never seems to disappoint. Somehow, siting music in what is, essentially, a plain old hall creates a warmth that the flashiness of bigger venues can’t quite represent. Such was the case when West London’s Charles Costa, known as King Charles, took to the stage in the midst of his ‘Gamble For A Rose’ tour. He invited an evening of dancing and intimacy, generating incredible energy and vibrancy.

King Charles released Gamble For A Rose just last month, a gentler follow up to the bounciness of his jaunty debut LoveBlood. The new sound he has presented brings with it an air of maturity, creating a more settled sound with just inflections of LoveBlood‘s quickly paced lyrics. The balance between the two gave the set excitement and diversity, with tracks from his first album drawing the audience out of the lulling warmth of Gamble For A Rose numbers.

Ryan O’Reilly, who worked on King Charles’ sophomore album, gently led the audience into the proceedings of the night. As is often the case with support acts, the crowd seemed a bit flat during his set and crowd engagement was pretty minimal. But this didn’t mar the effect of O’Reilly’s set. He was the ideal prefigurement to King Charles, with his softer, more acoustic sound luring the crowd in and creating a comfortable air. With carefully strummed guitar melodies, O’Reilly’s softly spoken vocals, with a slightly nasally twang, closed with ‘Boats Against The Current’. In the melancholy tone of his closing track, one can find traces of the sound created on Gamble For A Rose, which created a pleasant link between the two artists.

Clad in his statement gold matador vest (probably the only person next to Johnny Depp who can pull off the cool-pirate look with ease and grace), King Charles opened with the title track from his sophomore album. Its gentle beginning created a bridge between O’Reilly and himself, inviting swaying from the audience. He kept chatting between songs to a minimum, allowing for a fully packed set that seemed to fly by in an instant. Following on with ‘Loose Change For A Boatman’, this quieter tone was continued before the track descends into the jaunty quickness memorable from LoveBlood. It was clear that this was the sound enjoyed by the audience, perhaps because it is one that has been cemented with King Charles since his debut. Where there was stillness in the audience for Ryan O’Reilly, King Charles amped things up tenfold. The atmosphere was the best I’ve felt at a gig in a long time – maybe it was due to the small venue, or maybe it was due to King Charles himself – but either way, I came away smiling.

Rounding things off with the vibrancy of his first album acted like a parting gift from the artist. ‘Mississippi Isabel’ had the crowd chanting “she kissed me once I took her out for lunch and she never kissed me again”, which seemed apt for the loveless ones among us on the eve of Valentine’s Day. Closing on a slightly more romantic (albeit a little predatory) note with ‘Love Lust’, the gig came to a close on a high. Its jaunty tone and the energy King Charles brought to the stage made for the perfect conclusion to the night.

King Charles gave an effortless performance, flooding the small venue with energy and vibrancy through a precise balance between his two albums.

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Third year English student, Records Editor, list maker and lover of Kinder Buenos.

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