At this point in late October, in 2021, the Deaf Institute has been reopen for a number of months after a grueling year of uncertainty. Standing resilient after a near closure, not just due to a global pandemic, but a change of hands in ownership. The venue, more than ever, stands as a beacon of loyal servitude to the independent music scene and its forever exuberant following. It’s a theme which continues forth throughout the night, with this being the first date of King Charles’ new tour and the first show back after a year-plus of no shows. This show, in fact, had been rescheduled many times and has moved from venue to venue, that by the time it reaches this final destination we’re more than ready to party. And indeed, we did.
King Charles has a long history with Manchester, having practically played in all rooms of this size (and bigger) across this city—and it’s always a satisfying sight to see when an artist connects across generations and musical styles and time and place. I think that’s why we call it, longevity. It is the kind of love affair that we don’t need to feel guilty about, it’s passionate and precious without any self judgement. It’s probably the kindest form of love we have. And there was definitely an abundance of adoration filling the room on this night, from “I love you’s” to outstretched hands, costumes dedicated to the emblematic figure himself and a generous dose of group singing.
Pulling from a generous back catalogue, the 90 minute set covers all three studio albums plus standalone single releases as well as previewing songs from an upcoming EP. It’s a proper night out. We have King Charles (aka. Charles Costa) up front and centre, and a four piece backing band gathered just behind (apparently three of which are Italian and one of which is Portuguese). The songs are replicated very well, the best we’ve heard in some time. The power of a band, plugged in and electric, can’t be underestimated. The songs come alive in this context and shine vibrantly. Through shades of indie, folk rock, Afrobeat, Americana, soul and pop, one relies on their fellow musicians to be able to keep up with the pace and flow of the work, but also ‘feel’ their way through. And this they do, so effortlessly—and they’ll even lead the way sometimes. The longer intros and extended outros, actually, are something of genius. They add so much to the live experience and help tell the story of the song in much greater, vivid detail, particularly ‘Tomorrow’s Fool’ sees a great use of this. It’s an indulgence we deserve.
A song like ‘Freak’ offers nuance to the usual upbeat fare that King Charles is known for, this time it opens the set and speaks the first words. As the darkest lyrical turn in King Charles’ oeuvre, this song’s’ potent introspection into themes of depression and complex emotion gives immediate reference to a latter chapter in King Charles’ recent history and it also features in prime position on his last LP, Out of My Mind. It’s the most diverse we’ve heard from King Charles yet, this eerie neo-soul number brings to mind reflections of Prince while offering an intriguing perspective. The next few moments shift gears and we head to warmer climes, ‘LoveBlood’ and ‘Find A Way’ exude cheer and talk about more hopeful and romantic themes. It’s ease, simplified. But with racing guitars and pulsing rhythms, they still offer a wholly engaging time.
Newer cuts like ‘Animal’ and ‘12345,’ in a similar vein, bridge Costa’s constant interest in what it is to be human and how we spend our time: ‘Animal’ is consumed by desire and bares a bold, bright production. As beautifully melodic as indie pop goes, really. But equally eloquent and intelligent. ‘12345’ is more bashful in its approach, but still very appealing and melodically bright. The lyrics speak to our constant search for meaning in life but also encourage living life to its fullest, like today is your last day on Earth. It’s a joy to hear live. As is ‘Mississippi Isabel,’ an instant hit with the crowd. It takes us back to the Island and features another shredding moment from Costa on the guitar. We see the audience completing every line when ‘Gamble For A Rose’ comes around, ‘Choke’ has a beautiful Americana swing to it before it breaks out into a rowdier guitar-forward jam. ‘Feel These Heavy Times’ takes it back down and feels out a chilled stomp to a mid-tempo, whilst also asking: “Can’t we all just worship women?” How about that.
There are plenty more triumphant moments to close out the end, with ‘Lady Percy,’ ‘Love Lust’ and ‘The Brightest Lights’ to bring it home. We even see some head banging. A good time was had. What does become apparent with time, is that King Charles is one of our most thoughtful songwriters. His songs are innately universal, they’re not just catchy and energising, they carry meaning and they question (often asking the ‘big’ questions), but they importantly offer respite and escapism. And that’s what good music should do. At least, in my opinion.
King Charles will be playing the following cities and venues:
3rd – London, Omeara (SOLD OUT)
4th – London, Omeara (ADDED DATE)
5th – Ashford, Revelation
6th – Birmingham, The Castle & Falcon
7th – Bristol, Thekla
1st – Amsterdam, Melkweg
6th – Munich, Milla
7th – Vienna, Chelsea
8th – Leipzig, Moritzbastei
10th – Hamburg, Nochtspeicher
11th – Hannover, Béi Chéz Heinz
12th – Berlin, Privatclub
13th – Cologne, Artheater