Dolly still sparkles
Dolly Parton played Hope Estate on February 15.
PLATINUM: Dolly Parton runs through her hits. Picture: Dean Osland
DON’T y’all be fooled by Dolly Parton.
Beneath that sparkling bumpkiness and platinum blonde wig is a performer with few peers.
She’s sharper than a steer horn, with more tricks than a rodeo clown’s saddlebag. And she confirmed her status as a country music immortal with her show at Hope Estate last Saturday.
Catherine Britt launched proceedings late afternoon with a set stamping her as the Hunter’s own “hillybilly pickin’ rambling girl”.
True-blue balladeer John Williamson then dared the darkening clouds with his pared-back tales of drought and dinkum. Love or hate him, Old Man Emu deserves his spot at the top of our parochial pecking order.
Dolly saw neither support act – her custom black tour bus arriving backstage just before she went on – but she acknowledged them anyway.
Yes, she’s that kind of megastar.
Bursting into the spotlight with enough energy and sequins to make a mirror ball jealous, Dolly started with her 1970s hit Baby I’m Burning before shimmying into last year’s Girl On Fire from Alicia Keys. This musical segue underpinned her enduring relevance for anyone who feared the 68-year-old may have become a parody of herself.
It also proved she still sings great, moves well, even in stilettos, and looks fantastic (at least better than her surgically enhanced former song partner Kenny Rogers . . . from a distance, that is, as the usual concert big screens were conspicuously absent).
Next came her formative chart-topper Jolene, accompanied by the story about how it was inspired by a flirtatious bank teller with whom her husband was spending more time than they had money. Dolly must have scared off the competition, because he’s been “her man” for 46 years (and 40 albums).
The between-song chatter was laced with such biographical tidbits from back home in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee: pappa was a preacher; daddy couldn’t read or write; she was one of a dozen children from a “dirt poor” family; and she dreamed of the Grand Ole Opry by singing into a can on a stick.
Highlights – and there were plenty, backed by a tight 10-piece band – included the a capella Little Sparrow; mummy dearest tearjerker Coat of Many Colours; her “Dolly does Dylan” take on Don’t Think Twice; and the Pentecostal organ rendering of Bon Jovi’s Lay Your Hands On Me as the heavens opened.
Dolly means different thing to different people and musical genres.
She’s an eclectic songwriter (from the pop of 9 to 5 to the soaring ballad of I Will Always Love You); a self-deprecating comedian with home-spun schtick laid on thicker than her make-up (“it takes a fortune to look this cheap”); an impressive multi-instrumentalist (eight at least during her double set); a cottage industry (complete with Dollywood theme park); a bit actress (Steel Magnolias); and a God-fearing gay icon.
I only hope that her bus comes our way again.