Saturday, June 28, 2008

Superstar, oh, Superstar!

Last Sunday I went to see Dolly Parton in concert. What was extra special about the day was that the concert was held in Kilkenny, my home town. For the past few years there has been a concert in the GAA sports grounds of Nowlan Park, featuring big names like Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Shania Twain and Rod Stewart. I have never gone before but it would have been a mortal sin to miss Dolly. The weather has been just awful here in Ireland and the night before in Cork the worst of the worst happened, Dolly's hair got wet. She didn't mind as we all know Dolly is a trooper! The following evening in Kilkenny the mood in Nowlan Park was jovial, the age group was a good mix; mid twenties and upwards. When I arrived, the front part of the pitch was fenced off with only the Wheelchair section being the best area on the pitch to see the stage. As I thought to myself; "Now where can I get myself a wheelchair and blanket?" the barrier was taken down and it was so funny to see hundreds of people, mainly my parents age, running like bargain hunters at Harrods Spring sale, up to the area in front of the stage. The reason that the stage was cordoned off became more apparent. The stage-hands were still constructing the stage with only 20 minutes to go to show time. One man was still stapling down a waterproof covering over the electrics and another was swinging out of the roof pulling another covering into place, the concert would go ahead with only half the roof covered. There was no support but there was a delay of an hour but I think very few people up the front minded, the mood was great. My sister Emma was also right up the front with our friends Mary and Seamus. At nine pm with a full band, 3 fine backing singers (whom I dubbed Hilary Clinton, Toni Morrison and Armistead Maupin) the show began. Dressed in a trademark ultra tight glittery number in black and white, Dolly started the concert with a super version of "Two Doors Down" and from then on it was a mixture of songs she is so famous for and several from her new album; "Backwoods Barbie". Dolly Parton is 62 now but she has never stopped working and if she isn't recording her own material she is guesting on her contemporaries albums. Nobody covers a song like Dolly but sadly she didn't sing "Drives me Crazy" or "The Tracks of my Tears" from her new album. However the songs she did do were fantastic especially "Better get to Livin'" which was released as the album's first single earlier this year. The second single is "Jesus & Gravity" which she did at the end of the show. The title track of the album "Backwoods Barbie" is also a song which she will be singing in years to come. My favourite song on the new album, "Only Dreamin'", is below. This is so amazing live. Once again she proves herself as a gifted songwriter. Dolly sang several of the songs that she is most well known for, such as "9 to 5", "Here You Come Again" and "Islands in the Stream" with backing singer Richard being Kenny Rogers. Highlights were many, especially the wonderful "Shattered Image" from 2002's "Halo & Horns" album and "Baby, I'm Burning" from her 1978 "Heartbreaker" album, 30 years old! For me, the most gorgeous moments were the acapella bluegrass with all her band and "Little Sparrow" from the album of the same name in 2001. If ever there is a modern country song that is destined to be a future classic it's "Little Sparrow". Here in Ireland, it was obvious that the concert didn't sell out as there had been pages of full colour ads even up to the day of the concert itself. The tickets were €85-€90, which if they had been even €10 less would have better overall. Full props, sets, video screens and costumes had been promised but none of that happened. Instead it was a completely toned down show which I think worked almost better. Dolly had lots of chat and banter throughout the whole show and her humour and personality shone through for the entire evening. Every few minutes she would complain of the cold but this was funny more than anything else. Mid way a jacket was brought from her camper van. The only real bit of silliness was in the form of her muscled country boy dancer. If you ever wondered what happened to Jon Voight's character Joe Buck, in "Midnight Cowboy", well he ended up on Dolly's "Backwood Barbie" tour. Tonight, Saturday 28th June, Dolly sings in the MEN arena in Manchester and the tour continues for months to come. To close, here's one of my all time favourite performance's of "Jolene".
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