Dolly Parton in The O2, Dublin, on June 11th 2014
Dolly did Dublin this week as Ms Parton came to town for a completely sold out show at the massive O2 Arena. Now we all know Dolly Parton is a stone cold legend, but at 68 has the queen of country still got what it takes to entertain a packed out venue?
The lights dim down while the band kick off with a short instrumental medley of some of Dolly’s greatest hits including 9 To 5 and Islands In The Stream, while a simple background screen shows off her album covers, all forty two of them. Forty two albums. Just think about that. The stage set up is simple; two screens on either side and one as a backdrop. Unfortunately most of the graphics on the backdrop look like they were made by an intern using Windows 95 but that doesn’t matter, Dolly herself is all the stage show you need.
Emerging from the shadows in a black and white sequin number that displayed her, ahem…assets, Dolly is greeted by a rapturous roar from the crowd before starting proceedings with a mash up of Baby I’m Burnin’, Something’s Burning , Great Balls Of Fire and Girl On Fire. Why she didn’t include Bruce’s I’m On Fire is a mystery but oh well.
Three songs in comes one of the greatest songs ever written, the wonderful, the amazing, the fantastic Jolene. Some would call it a brave move to perform on of her best known songs so early into a set but she’s a pro; Dolly knows what she’s doing.
Not only has Dolly got the songs, the voice and ability to play a variety of instruments including electric and acoustic guitars, fiddle, organ and saxophone, all covered in rhinestones (that saxy devil), she also knows how to spin a yarn. The woman could have walked on stage, not sang a single song and still have been hugely entertaining with her onstage banter. Sharing stories from her past about influences, or anecdotes about her family and friends, or even some self-deprecation, she has a knack for drawing you in and having you hanging on her every word.
With no support act and a two and half hour show there is an interval. Remember when cinemas had an interval? Basically, intervals are great. All shows should have an interval. Everyone needs those few minutes to go do…well whatever they may need to do without missing the show. More intervals please.
On her return to the stage for part two, the pint sized Parton sports a fetching silver sequin waistcoat-cum-shirt number teamed with a pair of blue, sequin tasselled capris. No one can pull off blue, sequin tasselled capris other than Dolly and no one should even attempt it.
Ending the evening with Islands In The Stream and 9 to 5, the entire O2 is on their feet singing along word for word – kind of like the biggest karaoke party you’ve ever been to. A sense of infectious joy just fills the arena; we know the end is nigh but what a way to end it.
Leaving the stage briefly and returning for an encore of I Will Always Love You, it is striking how effortless the vocals seem to be. (If you only know the Whitney version shame on you, get to YouTube this instant or better yet go watch “The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas”) She seems to just open her mouth and out comes a huge vocal range, as easy as talking. One of the most emotional songs you could possibly witness live, there may have been a tear or two shed.
She may be 68 but Dolly still has it. Ms Parton, we salute you!
Dolly Parton Photo Gallery
Photos: Kieran Frost