Yes, you reading correctly. This entry is all about one of America’s most enduring and endearing country music stars, Dolly Parton. And yes, I went to see her perform live at the Mann Music Center in Philly.
Now, I’m familiar with some country music, but wouldn’t call myself an aficionado. It did not play in my house while I was growing up, and by the time I hit my teens, there was way too much testosterone in my bloodstream to be attracted to anything other than loud electric rock ‘n roll. But I’ve mellowed somewhat as I age (not too much, don’t worry), and I have found myself listening to more and more country music. Some of it is alt-country, meaning rockers who are influenced by country, and some of it is true country, like Merle Haggard, Chris Stapleton and Travis Tritt.
But Dolly Parton? Truth be told, unlike most shows I see, I wasn’t the primary motivator on this one. But I happily went, and had a heckuva good time. I respect the devil out of Dolly. She came from a dirt poor Smoky Mountain background to emerge as an icon of American popular music. Dolly has certain attributes of which we are all familiar, but beneath all that fake hair, large eyelashes, huge boobs and glitter, there is a superb songwriter and performer. And much more: Dolly is also an accomplished actress, author and businesswoman. But she is best known for her music. Dolly is the most honored female country performer in history, and she has written over 3,000 songs. Wow.
And her fans love it! Let me tell you, there was ADORATION among the faithful last night, and it helped to make the show memorable. Some of her fans are as flamboyant as the main attraction, but all were friendly and enjoyed a wholesome and home-spun evening of American roots music and stories.
The performance is full of the songs you know from Dolly, but she spends time between them bantering with the crowd and telling stories of her upbringing or what motivated her to write a certain song. Her stage chat is fun-loving and self-deprecating. One of the great quotes from Dolly is “it takes a lot of money to look this cheap.” Hahaha, isn’t that funny? It’s hard not to like her, and it’s also hard to envision her being angry or in a bad mood. Certainly that must happen, but her stagecraft and polish as a performer make you think that it’s impossible.
So what about Dolly herself? She is 70 years old, and looks amazing. Her outfits are full of shimmering rhinestones, and all of her instruments are bedazzled, too. And let me tell you, she plays a lot of rhinestone-studded instruments. Last night, she played acoustic and electric guitars, a banjo, the piano, a flute, a dulcimer, a saxophone, a harmonica and something else I’m forgetting. And she still sings like a bird, with her voice pitch perfect. In fact, she sang a few songs a cappella (both alone and with her band), and they sounded great. There is no doubt that Dolly is an amazing performer. In fact, the only thing missing last night was a drummer. I'm serious, no drummer. Crazy, right?
Dolly hasn’t toured this extensively in 20 years, so this may be the last time to catch her before she goes the way of Tina Turner and hangs up the stilettos forever. If you missed Tina, I feel sorry for you because she was a terrific performer. But you still have the opportunity with Dolly. If you get the chance, go see her before it’s too late. You might think it’s cheesy or uncool, but get over yourself and go have fun: I won’t tell and having fun is what this is all about.
Onward and upward to new things next time here at BillyRocksPhilly. But before I leave, here are some more photos from last night:
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.