Review: King Charles, KOKO

On the way to one gig on Thursday, I heard about another, an impromptu, secret affair on the high street. …

On the way to one gig on Thursday, I heard about another, an impromptu, secret affair on the high street. The king of crooning, Tom Jones, was playing to 150 people crammed into the Wheelbarrow. Although I turned up as the stage was being packed up and the Welsh wonder had disappeared into the night, the mood was set for an evening of top music, Camden stylee.

So yes, a younger sovereign was headlining down the road at KOKO – Charles Costa, otherwise known as King Charles. The West Londoner describes his music as glam rock with folk roots. Really it’s unashamedly happy, twangy, toe-tapping, catchy pop. Some tunes are tinged with country, others rock and some hip-hop, but in essence King Charles is here to entertain, not push musical boundaries.

Entertain he does. Both music and image are flamboyant, and Costa clearly takes his moniker seriously. He rocks a moustachioed, camp cavalier look which wouldn’t leave him looking out of place in an episode of Blackadder. A dreaded, heap of tousled hair, knotted on the top of his head, slips around as he prances, dances and spins across the stage, leaping onto speakers and tantalising the girls in the front.


Girls, you can’t help but notice, are an important part of the show. Most of King Charles’s songs are about the ladies and matters of the heart. Four out of fourteen on his album, LoveBlood, in fact have ‘love’ in the title. His muse, a mysterious American called Mississippi Isabel, inspires much of his songwriting. He won the International Songwriting Competition in 2009 which in turn earned him a record deal, and throughout the evening he gauges regularly the number of girls, compared to guys, in the audience. Eardrums pop as the females squeal and chant his name.

For all his pretensions – Costa says he’s particularly pleased with the song in which he set Oscar Wilde’s words to music – his act is amusing and annoyingly enjoyable. KOKO is packed and bouncing and singing along. The only shame is that Costa, his shirt undone to the waist, chest wig on display, doesn’t play his version of We didn’t Start the Fire, with his contemporary take on the lyrics.

Having been more used to supporting the likes of Noah and the Whale and Laura Marling, King Charles is now commanding his own kingdom. Expect to see that cavalier’s swagger and waxed ’tache around a lot more.

Words: Georgia Grimond


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  • Tim

    I saw King Charles at Proud about a year ago. Can’t believe he’s gone on to bigger venues. Such a pretentious mess of music. If he’s the new King of Camden then Cromwell needs to make a comeback.

  • Dave Hodgkinson (@davehodg)

    Just spotified it. Wow. Makes Amanda Palmer seem relevant.