COKE AND SYMPATHY is billed as a 90-minute rock and roll cabaret show based around the stories of Wild Delilah, groupie and rock and roll historian “who loses her heart to an enigmatic and destructive rock guitarist on his one-man quest for fame and glory”.
The show, narrated by writer and producer Ash King as Wild Delilah, mixes anecdotes, some well known and some more obscure, surrounding the origins of the songs of rock’s greatest icons such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix (mixed with plenty of salacious sex and drug gossip from Delilah herself), with performances of the songs by Delilah and her band.
As stated on the show’s website, Ash King is a self-confessed rock and roll addict. She can also sing and tell a yarn with some stage presence. Unfortunately though, many of the yarns seemed to drag on for far too long and the songs often weren’t strong enough to make up for the lull and sustain the show’s momentum.
Maybe some of the stories, like the ones about every man and his dog’s obsession with Patty Boyd (not just Clappo and then husband George Harrison) and the relationship debacles involving members of Fleetwood Mac during the making of Rumours may have appealed to those young enough to have never heard them before but they kind of reminded me of one of those ageing dullards on Spicks and Specks droning on interminably.
According to the web site, the show is “tumultuous and titillating”, but sadly I found it neither, despite Delilah’s exhortation that sex, drugs and passion are imprinted on the soul of rock and roll.
The web site also bills the show as “featuring a full live rock band, who are just as wild as Delilah”, but from where I was standing that struck me as just a tad silly. Yes, the band was more than efficient and Chris Long (keyboards), Dan Maher (guitar), Brendan Clark (bass) and Nick Meredith (drums) certainly did their best to propel the show along. Maher especially, who is only 21 years old, deserves special praise for some truly gutsy guitar riffs, especially in a memorable rendition of Eric Clapton’s Layla.
The trouble is that they kind of looked like they’d been plucked from the Rockwiz audience and there was nothing “wild” in a rock n roll sense about them at all, especially when juxtaposed with the stories being related about Mr Hendrix and Miss Joplin. In fact, I had a hard time imagining these boys throwing even one TV out of a hotel room window, let alone nailing the furniture to the ceiling or snorting coke from any cleavages, ample or otherwise.
Then there were the renditions of the songs themselves, some of which were kind of cover bandish, which was a pity because Ash King’s rock and roll heart is definitely in the right place and there was no lack of passion per se, but it just seemed that some of the songs, like the Stones’ Wild Horses and The Beatles’ Something were so insipid that they were unable to fill the void left from the not-so ripping yarns that had preceded them.
Having said all that, there were highlights, like Delilah’s heartfelt and passionate renditions of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” and The Carpenters’ “Superstar”, both of which deserve special mention.
Some of her anecdotes were more successful than others too, like the one about Leonard Cohen meeting Janis Joplin in the Chelsea Hotel in New York and dedicating the song of the same name to her, which worked far better than that well-worn yarn about Rod Stewart’s semen swallowing record – yes, I get it, it’s a spoof, or that old Mars Bar up the vagina chestnut.
In the end, the trouble with COKE AND SYMPATHY was that, unlike the hugely successful Johnny Cash show, there was an absence of a particularly strong narrative which left the storyline often meandering aimlessly between the songs.
In the end though, Ash King should take heart from the fact that there was enough to like about the show to make this reviewer want to know what she is going to do next.
Ash King’s rock concert show COKE AND SYMPATHY played The Vanguard, Newtown on Wednesday November 27.