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Dolly blows away the Big Apple last night

PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2008 12:26 pm
by Wagonmaster
Dolly Parton put on an inspired performance at Radio City Music Hall in New York last night, covering both classic songs and five new ones from the Backwoods Barbie album. Producer Kent Wells' arrangements, often highlighting Dolly's voice against a prominent fiddle, dobro, banjo or pedal steel, brought out aspects of the "Backwoods Barbie" songs that aren't apparent on the recording, giving them an intense country purity. In addition to the excellent backing band, which also included bass, drums, guitar and keyboard, were one male and two female harmony singers (sorry I don't have the names of all these people -- can anyone help me out?).

Something I really admire in a performer is the ability to sound better live than in the studio. Dolly demonstrated her complete musical mastery, at various times playing nearly every stringed instrument on the stage -- banjo, fiddle, guitar, dulcimer, autoharp, piano -- plus harmonica and penny whistle. She is an intensely physical performer, strutting and prowling the stage, except when sitting down to accompany herself on a lap instrument. "Stage presence" doesn't even begin to describe it -- she is electric. When she emerged in a white dress to begin the show with a smokin' version of "Two Doors Down," what had seemed like a sedate crowd went wild, as if a switch had been thrown. After every song, Dolly had to wait while the applause went on and on. You could feel the love, and she repeatedly thanked the aroused, enthusiastic audience for it.

At one point, Dolly even danced a jig with one of the roadies, whom she'd hired from Dollywood for the tour. The move was infectious -- soon half a dozen people were dancing in the aisle next to us, lithe young bodies bopping to the beat.

Lasting about an hour, the first set consisted of ten songs. "Backwoods Barbie," with prominent pedal steel counterpointing Dolly's vocals, was revelatory. "Only Dreamin'" was introduced by Dolly's explanation that she wrote it during a visit to New York last year. "So this is YOUR song," she averred, to the hollering, delirious crowd. She began it with a hypnotic intro on the Irish pipes, and went on to bend it into an aching, fiddle-inflected cri de coeur which held the audience spellbound ... and left me in hot tears. I did not realize how great a song "Only Dreamin' " is, until seeing Dolly's live performance of it. It's destined to be one of her countless enduring classics. Other songs in the set included "Jolene," "Shattered Image," "Coat of Many Colors," "Why'd You Come in Here, Lookin' Like That?" and "Eagle When She Flies." The set ended on an allegro note with a revival-themed gospel-medley stomp.

After the intermission, Dolly returned to the stage -- having changed into rhinestoned denim capri pants and jacket. "I never leave a rhinestone unturned," she quipped, obviously ready to party as she tore into a high-voltage second set, which began with a fiery "Baby I'm Burning," followed by "Better Get To Livin'" from the new album. Then a white rhinestone-studded piano was wheeled onto center stage for "The Lonesomes." With the lighting lowered and highlighting Dolly, the venue took on the intimate atmosphere of a cabaret. After her piano solo Dolly yucked, "Sounds kinda pentecostal, don't it?" Yeehaw!

In mid-set was a medley of Fifties, Sixties and Seventies hits: Jerry Lee Lewis's "Great Balls of Fire"; the Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love;" Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode"; the Beatles' "I Want To Hold Your Hand;" the Temptations' "My Girl;" Brenda Lee's "I'm Sorry;" and Aretha Franklin's "Respect." The latter two were delivered by first one and then the other of the female harmony singers, with Dolly joining in on the chorus, to devastating effect -- again demonstrating her awesome gift for haunting soprano harmonies.

Between songs Dolly asked, "Do y'all read the tabloids? I sure do! I believe everything they say, except about me. They're always sayin' stuff like 'Britney is Dolly's love child' or 'Dolly breastfeeds alien baby.' They said my tour is in shambles; well, WELCOME TO SHAMBLES! [pointing back to the band, as the crowd roared and stomped]. At least they haven't said that I was 'hospitalized for exhaustion.' You know what means: DRUNK AND CRAZY!" I was laughin' so hard in my reefer-and-codeine haze that I began reeling as my wife reached out to steady me; a long pull on a cold beer put me right (Radio City dispenses brown plastic longneck bottles from iced tubs -- WOOF!). Of course, I was thinking of the song Johnny Cash wrote for Dolly's late ex-partner, Porter Wagoner: "Committed to Parkview" -- not a song that Dolly would ever be likely to cover. She may be vulnerable, but not that way.

During the rampaging second half of the show, the sold-out, partisan crowd was on its feet most of the time, swaying with the music and shouting its approval. The one-two punch of "Here You Come Again" followed by "Islands in the Stream" produced a sea of arms waving glow-sticks, keeping time with the music. "Nine to Five" amped up the pace, provoking more shouting, dancing, and standing on the seats. For the last verse of "Nine to Five," Dolly just held out the microphone and let the impassioned audience roar the lines. By the time she introduced "I Will Always Love You," emphasizing again how much she appreciated the rousing reception, the entire audience was on their feet and eating from her hand. Thunderous applause as she left the stage brought her back to conclude the evening with "Jesus and Gravity."

Dolly Parton is the queen of country music; it's her live performances which prove it. She underlined, repeatedly, that music is what she is all about. "I will never retire," she announced, to raucous praise from the crowd. Saying that she is actually living her dreams, she expressed the hope of meeting her end on stage someday, with all of us present. "Then you can say you were there the night Dolly died." When she went on to sing "White Limozeen," one could not sense any gap between the lyrics, the person and the performance; they are utterly coherent:

Now she's a-livin' her dreams
Like a movie queen
Diamond rings and all things good
From the breadlines to the headlines
She's the toast of Hollywood
White limozeen
White limozeen

Out of dozens of concerts I've attended, this was surely one of the greatest. Dolly Parton is an earthly treasure. Do not miss the chance to see her live; it may change your life.

Re: Dolly blows away the Big Apple last night

PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2008 2:47 pm
by Wagonmaster
Here is the New York Times review of the concert, by Ben Ratliff. ... ref=slogin

Re: Dolly blows away the Big Apple last night

PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2008 3:17 pm
by Wagonmaster
Here are some photos by blogger Sean, showing what the Radio City Music Hall stage looked like. The lighting was great; everything was first class without being overdone. ... -hall.html

Sean also picked up some song titles which I missed. Does anyone have a complete set list?

Re: Dolly blows away the Big Apple last night

PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2008 3:36 pm
by Wagonmaster
Here's a rave review by blogger Heather Fink, who's not even that into country, but considers it "one of the awesomest shows I've seen." ... n-051.html

Heather included a photo by prepboy54 of Dolly in the second set, after she'd changed into denim. Dolly's so country, she don't have to wear boots!

Dolly sharing the rhinestone piano with a bandmate, after singing "The Lonesomes": ... otostream/

The Radio City Music Hall marquee: "An evening with Dolly Parton -- SOLD OUT"

Re: Dolly blows away the Big Apple last night

PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2008 3:41 pm
by Wagonmaster
Here's a great close-up photo of Dolly during the first set, taken from the first row: ... ent-217078

Re: Dolly blows away the Big Apple last night

PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2008 3:51 pm
by Wagonmaster
Mandy Bierly quotes her colleague Michele Romero, who nails it exactly:

"The woman is amazing. She does not need to wear jewelry. She IS jewelry. She makes glitter sparkle."

Mandy goes on to say that "From the moment she opened the show with 'Two Doors Down,' it was a party. And the thing damned near got out of control ..." ... arton.html

Read this review; it really catches the energy level that was present in the show.

Re: Dolly blows away the Big Apple last night

PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2008 3:23 pm
by Wagonmaster
Here is a very detailed and thoughtful review by blogger hadar. He picked up the same mood and ambience that I sensed, and described it so well:

When she sang 9-to-5, the entire audience stood and sang along (really well!). When it was over, and the crowd was still going nuts, she made the crowd sing one verse all by themselves. It was pretty cool. The crowd also stood for the entire song during I Will Always Love You.

We’ve seen lots of shows filled with crazed adoring fans (Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, Martina McBride come to mind, but it feels unfair to leave out Jerry Jeff Walker and many others!). That said, there was something qualitatively different last night. The fans seemed overjoyed just to be there. I can’t describe it, other than to give two tiny (insignificant) examples:

* You could see the gratitude on the face of one person, when it was clear that the other person (of the couple) arranged for the tickets.

* People kept turning to complete strangers (including to us!) and beaming, saying things like “is this fun, or what?” In other words, they just couldn’t help sharing their joy. ... usic-hall/