Nope, the Queen hasn’t gone to that great walk about in the sky leaving her eldest in charge (lord help us), this particular King Charles has bugger all to do with the Windsor lot. He looks the part though, far more than any member of our royal family has for...ooooh...the odd century or four. With enough hair to make several thousand merkins and a suitably raffish moustache he cuts a dashing figure, part Pirates of the Caribbean, part Barbara Cartland’s wet dream. King Charles the pop star men want to be and women want to...ahem...be with.
Kicking off the evening though (kicking off being a pretty appropriate description in fact) in the sweltering heat (boy it was hot in there) was King of Cats, a one man tornado of rage and hurt...with a bit of a comedy twist...I think (you can never be sure in this post-irony world). Short in stature and high in voice he’s a lo-fi meltdown wandering the tightrope of despair and frequently falling off, only to grab back on and haul himself up at the last minute. You’ll either love him or hate him, there’s no half way house here and for some his toddler tantrum vocals could be as excruciating as nails down a blackboard. I rather liked him. Cult-dom surely (and deservedly) beckons...
Less divisive, Beta Blocker and the Body Clock (one man, one drummer) trawl a similar street as San Fran’s indie rock icons Girls. Clearly the temperature (by this stage it was so ‘hott in here’ Nelly was seen wandering naked by the bar...one for the grandparents) wasn’t helping the band’s woozy fuzz pop sounds connect with the crowd.
Happily someone had found the on switch for the air conditioning by the time King Charles came on stage. A good job too. Dressed to thrill all in white, shirt unbuttoned to reveal little kiss curls of chest hair (steady ladies) you half expect him to go straight into an impersonation of Rik Mayall’s Lord Flashheart. Woof! Channelling his inner Hendrix (not for the first time this evening there was a bit of Jimi in there) Mr Flick - a bold mix of folk, rock and rap - opened up the set and, despite not featuring on the King’s debut album, Love Blood, it’s arguably the best example of ‘Glam Folk’, a term that he’s used to describe his particular sound. The crowd loved it and it’s not hard to see why. There’s a sad lack of real characters in music these days and if nothing else KC brings a splash of old skool glamour back to a world that’s become increasingly safe and bland. In fact you’d probably have to go back to the glory days of Adam Ant (surely a shoe in for Charles’ spiritual granddad?) to see someone who clearly cares so much about the ‘look’.
All image and no tunes would still make Charlie a dull boy though. Fortunately he’s got plenty stuffed down his codpiece, from the impossibly jaunty Mississippi Isabel (Regina Spector meets Vampire Weekend) to the distinctly Adam Ant-ish Polar Bear. The crowd lapped it all up, this blend of folk, rock and white boy afrobeat, clapping and singing along with an impressive degree of enthusiasm for a distinctly sweaty Monday night in Birmingham. In fact it’s a measure of how much the fans have clutched the King to their bosoms that so many people seemed to know all the words, a mere three weeks after the album came out (although many tracks have been floating about the interweb in one form or another for a while). Despite sweating buckets he gave back the love, playing most of the album’s songs over an hour or so and bravely leaping about as well as unsteadily mounting the keyboard at one point. When the stages grow in size with the audience I imagine we’ll see him do more of this kind of stuff, swinging from chandeliers, sliding down banisters, leaping from speaker to speaker with a rose between his teeth...that kind of thing. Just me? Oh. Okay.
The inevitable encore was preceded by rousing chants of “We love Charles” and he reappeared for a solo run though Love Is The Cure. Any female hearts that remained frozen were well and truly melted. The band (featuring a bassist wearing a cravat...nice touch dude) rejoined his majesty for Ivory Road (“you’re the wax in my moustache”...I hear ya there brother) and finally a clever rebooting of Billy Joel’s classic We Didn’t Start The Fire, proof that he’s just as concerned with social matters as he is with those of the heart. Well, kind of.
Despite the fact that at least 50% of the audience were just a security barrier away from tearing the clothes off his back he came amongst his subjects after the show, posing for photos, signing whatever was put in front of him (no breasts sadly...tut tut...young people today) and chatting with a lengthy queue of fans...some of whom (mainly the ladies...freaky) were sporting a range of stick on taches (£2 from the merch desk).
Good looks, good tunes and good times. There’s a new king of pop and you’d (wait for it...pun warning ahoy) have to be right Charlie to miss out.