Dolly Parton is such a vivid character on stage it’s almost as if she’s parodying herself. Within minutes of stepping out she’s cracking jokes at her own expense, making reference to her wigs and chest. Nevertheless, this simply adds to the charm of her performance, the quips combining with more heartfelt anecdotes of her childhood and family background. The show, whilst heavily rehearsed (and prompted by auto-cues), holds an endearing quality simply which stands to confirm why Parton is still one of the most powerful women in music.
With a recently released album the set is unsurprisingly littered with new numbers, but as Parton herself highlights “they’re new, but they sound old fashioned” and it’s this ability to create songs which pull in both the older generations and younger fans which inevitably allows her to keep playing the big arena tours. Lay Your Hands on Me re-imagines a Bon Jovi song with a new gospel edge, and Banks of The Ohio allows Parton to rewrite and re-imagine a traditional number.
Elsewhere she delivers a cover of Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright with such conviction you could be forgiven for thinking it’s one of her own songs. Other highlights include her own Coat of Many Colors, which she accompanies with a ramble back in time to her early years. It’s a reminder that her she’s come from a place of poverty – something easy to forget now she’s achieved world fame and her outfits are drenched in sparkles. It’s in stark contrast to the comedy moments, like her desire to ‘play’ the sax backwards by turning around with the instrument glued to her lips as the backing track kicks which gets a cheap laugh.
For most though, it’s the descent into what feels like the ‘karaoke slot’ which acts as the highlight. Despite delivering Jolene earlier in the night, it’s here we’re treated to Islands in the Stream, 9 to 5 and the encore of I Will Always Love You. For me however, it’s the softer moments earlier in the night which move Parton away from a cabaret star to something more sincere and the hush of the arena for Little Sparrow, delivered with 3 part harmonies, suggests I’m not alone in this thought. Regardless of what kind of Dolly fan you are, tonight confirms why she’s rightly maintained her successes.
Images copyright © Jo Cox. All rights reserved.