Dolly Parton brought her ‘Pure and Simple’ tour to Wolf Trap Wednesday night, and played to a packed house, presenting a career-spanning set that covered the hits, some of her personal favorite gospel songs from her childhood, some new songs from an album that will arrive later this summer, and stories…lots and lots of stories.
“Thank you for spending your hard earned money to see me, because you have no idea how much it costs to make me look this cheap!”
Dolly’s shows are more ‘family reunion’ than performance, with Dolly onstage, unassuming, flashing that smile and laughing, regaling you with stories from her nearly fifty-years in showbiz.
As I watched and listened, I was immediately struck with how her voice sounded; now seventy (!) years of age, her voice sounds stronger and better than it did at the height of her popularity in the late 1970’s/early 80’s.
This tour was absent any huge production pieces, apart from a raised bench seat on wheels that she used for a portion of the show. The main focus was on the songs and the stories, and even though I had heard it said before, Dolly does talk on stage as if she’s in her living room having you over for lunch, as breezy as could be.
The venue did an excellent job taking into account the outdoor elements when mixing the sound, and even though I was surrounded by fans (and the occasional mosquito) on the lawn, the sound carried very well all the way to the back of the venue, making sure no one was left out of the fun.
Dolly joked about her wigs as her ‘hair’ repeatedly got caught in the headset vocal mic she used. ‘Don’t worry; it doesn’t hurt when I pull it!’ She talked about growing up in the Smokey Mountains as part of a family of twelve kids and mentioned that she and her husband Carl recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by getting married again (’We can’t remember why we did it the first time, so we got married again!’)
It goes unnoticed by many how great a songwriter Dolly is. I mean, she’s made a living out of her ‘look’ (and she looked amazing) but, beyond that, the songs she has written have stood the test of time and been recorded by not only other country singers, but across all genres, most notably Whitney Houston’s record shattering rendition of ‘I Will Always Love You.” Last night, as she performed hit after hit, she proved, without actually mentioning it directly, that she’s a superb lyricist and writer. Also she displayed her talent for playing many instruments, including guitar, banjo, fiddle, piano, dulcimer and, the one that surprised me the most, the saxophone!
As I made my way among the throngs of fans, back to the car and back to reality, one thing was clear: We are now all in love with Dolly Parton. Even from seemingly miles away on the lawn, she will capture your heart.
Thanks to my friend (and big-time Dolly fan) Meg for bringing this show to my attention. It was a joy to see this show with you!
Set list (from setlist.fm):
Intro: Hello Dolly
Pure & Simple
Why’d You Come in Here Lookin’ Like That
My Tennessee Mountain Home
Coat of Many Colors
Smoky Mountain Memories
Rocky Top/Yakety Sax
Banks of the Ohio
“A Slice of American Pie” Medley: American Pie / If I Had a Hammer / Blowin’ in the Wind / Dust in the Wind / The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
I’ll Fly Away
Baby, I’m Burnin’
Outside Your Door
The Grass Is Blue
Those Memories of You
Do I Ever Cross Your Mind
Two Doors Down
Here You Come Again
Islands in the Stream
9 to 5
I Will Always Love You