War Child TuneUp Festival with King Charles at Scala
The stage for TuneUp Festival Tour at Scala plays host to a cyclonic sequence of talent tonight. This showcase of the “brightest new live bands” supports the worthy cause that is War Child. The crowd are a blend of subtle hipsters and almost fancy-dressed, the venue permeated by the distracting scent of kebabs.
Champs open to a half-hearted audience, only so because most of them are fashionably late. The brothers start slowly, piquing the growing crowd’s curiosity with wonderful harmonies and well-pitched synth. It’s a gentle, lilting set with power lingering under the surface. With almost no song announcements it’s hard to pick a favourite, but Champs’ likeness to Fleet Foxes is promising.
The charismatic and enchanting Night Engine stun with unexpected vocals, a Shirley Bassey-esque quality to lead singer/guitarist Phil’s voice. All I Got parades their ease on stage, personality erupting from each of them. Their “dance song” is inspired, an unpredictable deviation from indie. Rhythm is driven by Ed’s raw bass and Lee’s clever percussion, Dom’s keyboard channelling another dimension. The band sings “take me at my word” and the crowd really do. Thoroughly talented and entertaining, keep an eye on this lot.
Headliner King Charles’ fans’ adoration precedes him. Rocking his trademark Captain Hook look, he makes everyone in the room wish he was singing LoveBlood directly to them. This intriguing man is charming, his easy manner and flamboyant expression setting him a world apart. He plays to his loving audience, choosing crowd favourite Lady Percy as a trigger for dancing. The whole room swings and laughs delightedly, all the songs beautifully arranged for this live set. Heavy drums are the order of the night – Mississippi Isabel is sexy and suggestive, with far more resonance than on record.
The band alters the pace again and again; Coco Chitty is romantic and heartfelt while at once boasting a heavier sound, inciting the mob. This is an awe-inspiring performance, the dramatic melodies taking the crowd higher. Polar Bear is the best of the brilliant set – raucous, heavy and breathless. This heady mix of reggae and Led Zeppelin influences flaunts King Charles’ new sound. Testament to his lyrical flair, the night winds down with his genius rewrite of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire to wild chanting and applause.
Intoxicating, obscenely talented and undeniably sexy, the bands live up to their billing; they are the brightest lights in London tonight.
Photos: Dimitris Amvrazis
Watch the video for Lady Percy here: