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Dolly Parton, Trent FM Arena

Dolly Parton, Trent FM Arena Nottingham, July 1 2008

IT was the show with pretty much everything: Classic country, bizarre stories, cheesy one-liners and rhinestones.
And the sort of comment to put feminism back a generation.
Dolly Parton has lived the American dream. Born in to a poor Tennessee farming family, one of 12 children, where dad was illiterate and mum would clothe her offspring by piecing together 'rags'.
These days the 62-year-old, famously short, even more famously top heavy, is The Queen Of Country, a Grammy winner and multi-millionaire owner of a theme park or two.
As she sings on the title track to her latest album Backwoods Barbie:

I'm just a backwoods Barbie, too much makeup, too much hair.
Don't be fooled by thinkin' that the goods are not all there.
Don't let these false eyelashes lead you to believe that
I'm as shallow as I look

Quite. The tickets for this show alone gross around half a million quid.
But let's not take anything away from her. She is a rare talent, an icon even.
And that voice... even the helium heights of her back catalogue seem to shoot from her tiny frame with ease. Jolene, Coat Of Many Colours, Here You Come Again... they're all there.
And she puts everything in to the live experience, two-and-a-half hours split in to two with just one costume change, from red dress to a pale blue.
Unusually, the flashes from the crowd aren't cameras so much as the sparkly cowboy hats, deeley boppers and feather boas being sold from a few Delboy types on the way in.
Dolly talks aplenty. There are numerous tales from her past, like the time she used the local berries as a substitute from make-up she couldn't afford.
"Because I was one of 12 children people would say 'are you Catholic?' Hell no, we ain't Catholic, just randy horny hillbillies".
Shattered Image we are told is about gossiping tabloids and offers the idea that had Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan "had been with as many men as they say then they'd have more fingerprints on their butts than the FBI."
Oh yes, Dolly can be saucy.
And weird. Great Balls Of Fire is an eyebrow raiser. The cover of Fine Young Cannibals' Drive Me Crazy on the new album was strange enough but the explanation for it plummets deeper in to the absurd: Her husband of 42 years is a fan of "Acid Rock like Led Zeppelin" and would play this often. Acid rock? Still, it's a meaty version with hicksville touches thanks to the banjo and fiddle.
Talking of which, how accomplished is she as a musician? Banjo, tin whistle, slide guitar, harmonica, dulcimer, violin... she plays with skill -- and with talon like fingers. And each instrument is bejewelled with rhinestones. Very Elvis. Very high camp.
Vocally Dolly is remarkably powerful but she only shows off her and the 11-piece band's abilities with the a cappella Do I Ever Cross Your Mind and Little Sparrow. Hairs on the back of the neck and all that.
But there have been lip-syncing accusations.

Little Sparrow, Trent FM Arena Nottingham - miming?

Worse still, after admitting she's "not too political", suggests that should any woman become president every 28 days there'd be trouble.
"I'm talking like I've had a diet pill," she says, typically self-deprecating.
There's a row of lager-fuelled Vicky Pollards behind us who lose concentration often and chatter throughout these moments of Dolly dialogue. Being physically manhandled by them to "get up and dance" during the closing party tunes like 9 To 5 and Islands In The Stream is equally surreal -- and unpleasant.
These songs set the crowd in to a frenzy, dancing in the aisles until the yellow shirted security have a quiet word about health and safety. Which is annoying.
After I Will Always Love You, probably the biggest song she has ever penned, Dolly is back for an encore, back to the Church of Dolly with Jesus And Gravity, another tune from the Backwoods Barbie album.
Then it's all over.
It's been unique. Special.
As thousands march home with their pink Dolly cowboy hats flashing in to the night, or for one group of girls, climbing in to a pink stretch limo, one wonders if she'll be back. Probably. Even after all this time she seems to still enjoy being a Backwoods Barbie.

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