Live Review: King Charles / ME

14th June - Tunbridge Wells Forum

After his recent escapades at the Tunbridge Wells Forum (recently voted the UK's best small venue), King Charles returned for second helpings. Joined by his band and support from rockers, ME, the night surpassed all my expectations.

Having earlier directed the lead singer of ME as to where he could buy some "take away alcohol", from, we sidled up to the front of the stage just in time to see ME walk on. I'd heard very good things about the band, and after briefly listening to their music in preparation, I had only one preconception in my mind; Muse. Now this is not a bad comparison, but what they delivered smashed it right out of the water. And I'm glad.

The Australian four-piece had a magnetic energy with so much more to them than I had originally thought. Outstanding musicians individually, together they brought a real spectacle to their performance. Shredding guitar solos, ball-busting vocal registers and dynamic arrangements made for a highly theatrical show, synonymous with that aspect of Muse's music yes, but it was their multi-textured harmonies and vocal power that really shone through. Similarities with Queen were racing through my head as their almost operatic style dominated the room. The lead singer (and keyboardist) had an incredible range and was note perfect throughout. Their set finished proclaiming, 'Goodnight Tonbridge', but it's ok, I'll forgive them.

After a long wait, King Charles and his band walked through the makeshift curtain; a rather attractive looking bunch with the man himself wearing zebra-striped tight trousers, his typical Ant Ant-esque military jacket and larger-than-life dreadlocks. All this was soon to change however, unable to avoid the foray of sweat-inducing hysteria that was to come. (see picture below, girls)

From start to finish, King Charles' eclectic set had me hooked. He'd managed to have the crowd cozying up to their partners one minute and furiously head-banging the next. Of course, this was also down to his brilliant band - Candice, the main backing singer and occasional percussionist, along with drummer, bassist, synth/keyboard player and King Charles with a vast array of guitars.

If I'm honest, I thought going to a King Charles gig would be a bit of fun and little else. But oh, how I was wrong. Never before have I been so surprised, and impressed, at the live arrangement of a set. Yes there were a couple of backing tracks used, but the band's energy and sheer originality soon made up for that.

Just when you thought a song was about to end, the band broke into the most amazing break downs, with extended versions of tracks taking on a whole new life due to some seriously rocky elements and guitar solos. These aspects really worked with songs like Polar Bear, which saw candice and the bassist pounding out the bass-line on a single, stand alone drum, and The Brightest Lights. This was by far the best song of the night, encompassing everything you could want from a live gig - sing along choruses, guitar solos, awesome harmonies and the most epic full-band break down. I'd watch that again any day!

Amongst the frenzy and sweat-flinging, there were, of course, some more tender, relaxed moments with the likes of Love Is The Cure, Beating Hearts and Coco Chitty, with a two-song solo encore before King Charles invited his band back on for one last song; a brilliant cover of Billy Joel's We Didn't Start The Fire complete with new, updated lyrics. It was the perfect way to end the show.

The night was awash with wild euphoria and a sense of majesty that only King Charles' persona could bring to a performance. Pretty good for a gig in a former public toilet!