Hello Dolly

Hello Dolly

by JasonBryan / Oct 06, 2016 / 0 comments
Saturday, 8 October 2016 to Sunday, 9 October 2016

Dolly Parton played two nights at the Hollywood Bowl, and if there is one thing you’ll realize, when you see her perform, it’s that she is timeless. At 70 she still has the vigor of a teen, the mental wit of a recent college graduate and all the endearing charm of a grandmother. I don’t know how she does it. There are two aspects to a Dolly Parton concert; one is obviously the music, the other is her storytelling. Maybe it’s a long gone art of performance, since the only other artist I’ve seen use this technique so successfully was B.B. King who was born nearly 20 years before her, but also performed into and past his seventies. It’s a talent that transcends a musician to a full-blown entertainer.

And speaking of Dolly Parton as a musician, the woman played a plethora of instruments: guitar, banjo, dulcimer, autoharp, piano, saxophone, and even some kind of flute or a recorder. Not to leave out the one she’s most known for, her voice, which was as crisp and clear with all the range and power behind it you would have expected of her in her prime. Heck maybe she’s just now in her prime, I wouldn’t argue against it. Longtime band mates accompanied her on keys, guitar, bass, and all of them contributed to the harmonious backing vocals, but what was missing from the stage, but not from the sound, was a drummer. She confessed through a humorous story that her and the drummer had a disagreement and he’d been replaced by a drum machine. This was frankly my only complaint about the show, someone of her caliber could have any drummer in the world playing with her and instead we got Drumbot 5000. An interesting choice for someone with as many ties in the industry as her, and would know better than replacing a man with a machine.

The real treat of the show is in her story telling and her self-deprecating humor. She tells of her childhood, one of 12 kids on a patch of land in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, the stories show her family was poor in a way forgotten about by people growing up in a world with a plethora of social services. One of my favorite tales was how she came to have her “look”. She talked about going into town and seeing the town hussy or tramp and thinking she was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen, and how her family would try to discourage her, calling her trash, and how she was fine, she would just be trash. She quips more than once, “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.” There is no shortage of jokes about her wigs and thanking the donor whoever they might be. She also quipped, “It’s a good thing I was a girl, otherwise I’d have been a drag queen.”

She performed two sets with a good sprinkling of hits, folk and gospel standards, and a couple of cover medleys. The first set started fast with “Train, Train”, “Why’d You Come In Here Looking Like That”, and “Jolene”. Jolene was naturally preceded by a story about the jealousy that inspired the song. She made a point that I had made to some friends a few weeks ago, about how with the turmoil in the world today, musicians should be inspired to write songs as good as what came out of the sixties, before going into a classic rock medley of, “American Pie”, “If I Had a Hammer”, “Blowin’ in the Wind”, Dust in the Wind”, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” As everyone knows I love covers, but I wish she had done at least one verse of American Pie, instead of just the chorus.

The second set started off pure rock and roll with a fast paced medley of “Baby I’m Burning”, “Great Balls of Fire”, “Girl on Fire”. Halfway through the set her and her band mates performed an a cappella version of “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” which had a fantastic barbershop quartet feel to it. Then she asked the (older members of) audience if they ever turned a record to the faster speed and sang along, and then the quartet performed the song faster and higher pitched to emulate the chipmunk setting on the record player. The performance of each song throughout the show is done so well and ties in so well to the stories she tells that you’re content waiting patiently for the biggest hits. Dolly being the true entertainer that she is would never leave her fans unsatisfied and she streamed off a series of hits to end the show: “Two Doors Down”, “Here You Come Again”, “Islands in the Stream”, “9 to 5”, and encoring with “I Will Always Love You”. On Sunday she squeezed in another gospel favorite of hers to end the show. In all it was a fantastic evening with a true legend of all music genres.

Rating out of 11: