Dolly is on the front of pretty much all of the major papers today. It’s no surprise – I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret fact that I have known about Dolly for many years – Dolly is fabulous. This is a 68 year old woman, yet you would never know it from her powerful voice, energetic performance, and rhinestoned outfits. Not only did she headline Glastonbury on Sunday, but she also played at the O2 on both Friday and Saturday, as part of the Blue Smoke World Tour.
Despite the glitz and glamor that one would expect from a Dolly Parton show, at the very forefront of the performance is the music. She is the Queen of Country for a reason: she has an undeniably powerful voice, and has written songs that have defied her decades of fame, and are just as relevant now as they were years ago. Not only that, but Dolly is an impressive instrumentalist, and at her O2 set she played no less than eight instruments including the banjo, fiddle and saxophone.
The legend has a huge and diverse audience, and she catered to each and every one at her weekend shows. Her set included her classic hits, such as 9 to 5 and Jolene, a nod to the mountain music she grew up with, in My Tennessee Mountain Home, alongside bluegrass, with the stunning, virtually unaccompanied Little Sparrow, Gospel, with the Bon Jovi cover Lay Your Hands on Me (with Richie Sambora on guitar), and tracks off her new album. She tied all of these together with charming tales of her past, and the witty one liners that we have come to expect from Dolly.
Everything about her set harks back to her country roots. Dolly doesn’t shy away from her upbringing, sharing with the audience, and bringing them into the world of her music. This makes each song all the more poignant, especially Coat of Many Colours, which is, of course, based on a true story. This maintained a sense of intimacy, despite the sheer number of fans in attendance. Even her rhinestoned outfits are reminiscent of nudie suits worn by the likes of Dolly’s original duet partner, Porter Wagoner.
Her performance was flawless, she represented herself as the Dolly her fans know and love, and her enthusiasm was contagious. Her voice sounded as strong and effortless as it always has, and she was gracious and engaging with her fans. Dolly can pull off her ‘look’ and persona because of the immense talent that it enhances, but you would do well to remember this about Dolly: she ain’t dumb, and she ain’t blonde.