Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dolly Parton, Glasgow SECC, Sunday 21 August

And so to Sunday, when we demonstrated that Edinburgh doesn't have a monopoly on music-making in August in Scotland. This was Dolly's second night in Glasgow, which was the first stop on her "Better Day" European tour.

Hilary and I were a little alarmed by the concert description on the tickets:

but rest assured, when that warm front swept in across the Atlantic it was surrounded by as much armour as the crew of an Abrams tank. In the first half she wore a red dress, in the second a turquoise culotte set (she had different costumes on the Saturday, it seems). When she sat at the piano she had a "Whoops, I sat on a rhinestone" moment. (Incidentally, DP evidently plays a lot of instruments, some like saxophone, harmonica and banjo to a fairly basic level, others like piano, dulcimer, autoharp and guitar pretty damn well.)

Here's her setlist:

Light of a Clear Blue Morning (instrumental intro)
Walking On Sunshine
Baby I'm Burning
Rocky Top
Duelling Banjos/Mukeskinner Blues
Help/Shine/Stairway To Heaven
My Tennessee Mountain Home
Precious Memories
Coat of Many Colors
Smoky Mountain Memories
Son of a Preacher Man
Better Day
Together You And I
Holding Everything
Joyful Noise
Queen Latifah Rap
He Will Take You Higher
He Is Everything
Two Doors Down
Country Is As Country Does
In The Meantime
The Sacrifice
Little Sparrow
River Deep, Mountain High
Here You Come Again
Islands In The Stream
9 to 5
Light of a Clear Blue Morning
Encore: I Will Always Love You

What can I say? Dolly Parton, at the age of 65, still looks amazing: not natural, but amazing (we liked the fact that when she changed costumes at the interval she switched wigs as well). As an Irishman I worked with before going to college used to put it, "You wouldn't kick her out of bed for eating biscuits". No indeed. She is still a fabulous live performer by every measure you could wish to apply. She's still writing great songs, as the material from her new album "A Better Day" demonstrates. She has a charming line on self-deprecating humour: the "Queen Latifah rap" was a pseudo-rap piece celebrating Dolly's co-starring with QL in a forthcoming film Joyful Noise. It contained the immortal lines "I don't hip and I don't hop / I'd black both eyes with this big top". OK, not the best part of the evening, but that line was quite funny. It also demonstrated Dolly's famous business sense: nobody left that concert unaware of Dolly's new album/forthcoming film/smartphone app/her Imagination Library project (books for kids initiative, whose Scottish launch was the next day). Nothing aggressive, nothing pushy, but you couldn't fail to be aware of all those things. There is nothing dumb about this blonde.

Let's have the video for her new single:

(Embedding disabled)

I've read comments on country music forums that reckon the video is too optimistic and 1960s-ish for DP's fans. Well, I reckon a good part of her fan base grew up in the 1960s (the age range in the audience was enormous - and there were slightly more women than men). Her new album is deliberately upbeat. And a woman who has shrugged off protests from the KKK and others because of her championing of gay marriage and her institution of an annual "Gay Day" at her Dollywood theme park will be neither surprised nor fazed when she inevitably gets protests at the inclusion of women in hijabs in that video. Certainly when right-wing loonies try to tell me that multiculturalism is un-American I now have an utterly American icon to tell them otherwise.

And watching DP with the kid right at the end reminds me that she is Miley Cyrus's godmother, which must be hard work but has led to some fun collaborations:

The thing about Dolly Parton, everyone agrees, is that she really is as nice as her image makes out. It may seem impossible that anyone could be quite so genuine and unaffected by having a fortune the size of J K Rowling's (about half a billion pounds, give or take a small country), but then again it might seem impossible that a 65-year-old woman could have those boobs and that waist. There you are.

I could happily have listened to her for another two hours, another night, another lifetime. She is up there with Neil Diamond as someone I couldn't imagine having too much of, either live or on record. And for anyone wishing to poke fun at me for being a Dolly Parton fan, here is probably my favourite of her songs:

OK, I like sad songs, but someone who can both write and perform "9 to 5" and "Mountain Angel" deserves respect, if not awe.


Here is a review of the concert.

It also appears that Dolly is looking for a flat in Rotherham, which is where her Imagination Library had its UK launch a few years ago. What I can't understand is how, when Jonathan Trew was desperately creating "Yorkshire" versions of country songs, he missed the obvious joke that was staring him in the face. Dolly Parton. In Yorkshire. All together now: "Where There's Muck, There's Bras".


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