For over 50 years she’s entertained and blessed millions with her voice and generosity, and now she’s back in Australia on her ‘Blue Smoke Tour’.
Much adored by generations alike, the legendary Dolly Parton once again graced the Adelaide Entertainment Stage with a blend of her old and new songs from her upcoming (May) release of the same name.
After a brief but memorable montage of her old album covers throughout the her extensive career amidst a rendition of ‘Hello Dolly’ on violin, bursting with energy she took to the stage draped in a turquoise dress emblazoned with rhinestones and immediately set the pace for an evening of Dolly at her finest!
With her 10-piece band she opened her show with ‘Baby I’m Burning’ in which she sang a snippet of Alicia Keyes’ Girl on Fire, showing her ability to take a song and make it her own.
Between songs it is immediately clear that Dolly Parton is very personable and genuinely humble, as she interacts with the audience and explains how pieces of her life have influenced her music and who she is today. She jokes frequently, even having a dig at her husband by stating that “we’ve been married for 48 years…but only together 3 and a half of it”! No doubt, a reference to her being the most hardworking woman in country music.
Her infectious giggle after delivering jokes shows that she is also still very much young at heart, and perhaps a little risqué. Her version of Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright featured her on harmonica, one of many instruments she would play throughout the evening and the gospel set consisting of Old Time Religion and I’ll Fly Away were a tribute to her spiritual upbringing in Tennessee, which she is unashamedly proud of.
She made numerous references to how her faith in God has helped her throughout life, and how hardship made her a determined woman who rose from being ‘dirt poor’ to being not only wealthy, but being able to give back to others. She generously founded an ‘Imagination Library’ for kids who can’t read, which donates millions of books each year- it is a dedication to her late father who was illiterate.
Coat of Many Colours, devoted to her mother and based on a true story, is perhaps one of her most endearing and poignant songs, but didn’t quite have the same gusto live as expected. Dolly seemed to be whispering, almost speaking the lyrics but nonetheless it was still emotional and you could feel the hardship of growing up poor in a family of 12 kids. You genuinely feel she is a simple country girl who, whilst becoming phenomenally successful, has never forgotten how tough life can be for some and has remained humble in the process.
Not only is Dolly Parton great at telling her story in song and tales, but she can be a little naughty too! After amusing the audience with her saxophone skills and playing the Benny Hill theme, she quipped about ‘great sax’ and how she enjoyed the ‘sax’. She then takes to an organ and then offers her take on Bon Jovi’s Lay Your Hands On Me, which sounds quite good with her gospel twist to it.
After a quick break, she’s back as the undisputed ‘Queen of Rhinestone’ in a white bedazzled frock with more bling than Hollywood. Showing off her great vocal range, she sang Banks of The Ohio and Little Sparrow before launching into a solid Bluegrass set including Travelling Prayer and Collective Soul’s Shine, with a country and western feel.
It was almost time for Dolly to retire for the night, but not before Islands in The Stream with her backing singer Richard, who filled in for the Kenny Rogers part very nicely and had the audience upstanding, and then finished solidly with the smash hit 9 to 5.
She exited the stage but we all knew she had to return to deliver perhaps her most moving and celebrated song made even more famous by the late Whitney Houston, I Will Always Love You. It was a fitting end to a fabulous show from a wonderful entertainer with a heart of gold.
Evidently, God has been good to Dolly Parton, and long may she live. At 68, who knows how many more years of touring she has or whether Australia will see her return, but with a career like hers she’s already given so much to so many.
Dolly Parton, Adelaide will always love you! Y’all come back now, ya hear!