Well Hello Dolly! Without even needing a warmup band or an opening act, the music starts, the lights come up, and there she is, center stage with her arms wide open, the country music legend herself, Ms. Dolly Parton.
Immediately the entire audience in Sunrise, Florida’s BB&T Center, springs to their feet to shower her with love and adoration.
She is a vision in her tight, white jumpsuit, that girls, half her age, only wished they looked as good in. Seriously, when she turned around I had der·ri·ère envy!
Dolly commands the stage immediately, welcoming everyone with her iconic laugh and then going seamlessly into her first song. After that hit-the-road-running opener and while the crowd is still up and cheering, she quickly changes gears and asks everyone to “go ahead and sit, because I’m gonna be here awhile.”
They oblige and from that moment on, she holds them in the palm of her tiny hands.
Dolly’s current tour is aptly named, “Pure and Simple.” On stage, there are only three band members and a few hunky cowboys who move props and hand her instruments. That’s it. And that’s all this little lady needs.
Believe it or not, this country mega star known for her over-the-top outfits, only has two costume changes! One for the first half and the second; which comes right after the twenty-minute intermission. Yup, you heard me right. Smackdab in the middle of it all she leaves the stage…and as a testament to how awesome she is, NOBODY leaves.
This time around, it’s not the glitz and glam she will dazzle you with. It’s the intimacy. In between songs, Dolly shares personal stories about her life. Even in a large venue, it still feels as if she is sitting in a rocking chair on a porch outside a log cabin chitchatting with you about her memories. The feeling is like having a warm blanket wrapped around you. At one point, she even dedicates, to each, a song to her mom and dad. The love that pours from her is touching.
Then, at other times she is so cheeky and witty you feel like you are at a comedy show. During what is arguably her show stopper of the night, “Rocky Top,” Dolly tells her sexy cowboy to dance during her fiddle solo. And he does.
It should be noted that the only thing more impressive than the unbelievable high heels she prances around in, is the fact that she plays eight different musical instruments throughout the show. Guitar, banjo, fiddle, autoharp, dulcimer, piano, tin whistle, harmonica and a mini saxophone. To which she quips, “It’s just like me. Half the size, all the sound.”
Then there is her voice. Several times in the show she sings acapella. One time sitting on four stools with her band mates, with no instruments, their harmonies were spot on.
But when she sang “Little Sparrow” with no music, her voice filled the entire stadium and it was flawless. Besides the power and pureness of her voice, I have never seen an arena audience sit so quietly that you could honestly hear a pin drop. It was an amazing experience.
Dolly says, “When I’m homesick, I write.” This tour clearly is a tribute to the songs she loves and she wants to sing, with a few of everyone else’s favorites thrown in.
Of course, she ends with the very song I fell in love with when I first heard her sing it, “I’ll Always Love You.” Sung the way it was meant to be, as a stripped-down heart wrenching country love ballad. No offense to Whitney, but it doesn’t get any better than Dolly’s version. The video below shows her singing it in the movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
On stage, she is clearly as happy as she has ever been. At one point Dolly says, “Dreams don’t happen overnight.” Very true, Ms. Parton, but on this Pure and Simple Tour, it’s so obvious that every night you perform, they do.
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