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  • Carola Kolbeck

Charles - A League of His Own

Singer-songwriter Charles’ London headline show sets a new bar for live performances.

Trying to find the words for something that can only be experienced in order to make sense is equally frustrating and magical. Frustrating, because you want to tell everyone how amazing that event was so that they can appreciate it on some level. And magical, because you already know that words could never do it justice, because, you know, you had to be there.

Charles' headline show Wednesday night was one of those events. Amazing. Great. Fantastic. Wonderful. Epic. Incredible. Outstanding. All of those adjectives work to some extent, but even if I used them all to give an idea of what Charles did last night, it would still feel like we're not even scratching the surface of the level he performs at. To be quite frank: the adjective to describe Charles’ headline show, his performance, his music, his voice - this word simply has not been invented yet.

From the moment he steps on stage, introduced by his über-talented band and backup singers (who, let's be honest, are in a league of their own, just like he himself), Charles commands the stage, every inch of it, and emanates an aura that has you captivated from the very moment you lay eyes on him. Wearing a sharp black suit jacket, a black asymmetrical skirt layered over a white maxi skirt, teamed with black and white loafers and a briefcase, he begins his set with a new song "Lucky Star", and sends the crowd packed in London's Lower Third club into a frenzy. People dance, they holler, they sing along, but what I notice most on the rare occasion when I can tear my eyes away from Charles on stage, is the huge smiles and beaming, happy faces that are surrounding me. He has us captured, takes us with him on this otherworldly journey of his music, his dance moves, and, not to forget, his inimitable style.

Playing a selection of old and new songs, Charles gets changed after a cover rendition  of "Lapdance". Now dressed gloriously all in white, donning a shirt, suit jacket, and maxi skirt, he accessorises his look with a statement belt and blue braces. "That took a bit longer than I thought," he jokes before performing another new song, "Hearts on the run". The crowd adores him, which is evident, as they shout it in between songs and the atmosphere is electric, charged with fierce love and support for the tall man on stage. 

Part of Charles’ magic is that his array of songs is as broad as his vocal range. Yes, we all love a feel-good sing-along, but I doubt there was a dry eye left in the room when he performed "Right on time", a song he wrote with The KTNA about the struggles he faced when growing up. And as a tribute to humanity and in acknowledgement of unbelievably horrendous conflicts in the world, Charles gifts us his own, stripped down version of Rozalla’s dance anthem "Everybody’s Free", prompting a passionate reaction from the crowd. It's enough to know that if Charles' energy, love and kindness could be bottled up and sent into the world, it would instantly be a more peaceful place.

Of course, the set would not be complete without the collaborative hit "Boyfriend", which Charles wrote with Brother Zulu. At that stage, even if this was your first time watching Charles perform, you'd wish he was your best pal who you'd go to a spa and do your nails with. As the set is coming to an end, Charles treats us to his soon to be released new single "Fantasize Me", and closes his gig with the fabulous earworm "Taste of You", which sees the crowd fall into an unanimous, exhilarating dance, singing along at the top of their voices. Raucous applause follows, mixed with relentless demands for more.

As Charles steps back to his mic, he expresses his heartfelt gratitude to his fans, and tells us to never stop dreaming. "If you want to be a singer, do it, if you want to be a teacher, go for it, just go and follow your dream". There are affirming cheers, and in this moment we know that anything is possible and that the evidence is standing in front of us. Charles’ love for what he does, his tenacity and drive to keep going and to never sway from who he really is, are transforming and so impactful you'll feel his presence and energy long after you left the gig. And after a phenomenal encore of “Taste of You”, the crowd explodes once more, clapping and stomping their feet, because for Charles' people, applause is just not quite enough.

When the lights in Lower Third come back on, no one really wants to leave, and I look around, taking in the post-gig chatter, the laughter, the smiles, the hugs and love I've witnessed throughout the gig. I manage to sneak a quick hug with the man of the night, but can't muster the words to tell him just how watching him perform has made me feel. I hope someone else can.

As I wander through the dark streets of London back to the train station, I can't hold a normal conversation but point out the obvious: ‘Look at that pub, those lights, that couple who are kissing outside a cornershop’. My mind and soul are full of Charles' artistry, and that is enough to render anyone speechless. One day I hope I'll find the words, but for now, I'll just play his music on repeat.

Follow Charles on Instagram and listen to his songs on Spotify.


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