Pure and simple, Dolly Parton is a national treasure, and one of those artists who has eluded me in my years of concert-going. That changed with a generous invitation from my friends James, Mark and Steven. I was fortunate not only to see the country icon in true CenterOrch fashion, I got to meet her face-to-face. Albeit fast, and with my heart pounding in my chest, I got a laugh out of her by saying ‘welcome to Queens from all us queens.’ As I stepped away from the step and repeat, the joke clicked, she released her signature squeal and hollered back at me, from all us queens! that’s a good one!’ She didn’t work it into her act.
With the sun shining bright on the Forest Hills Stadium, Dolly emerged in a silver and gold sequined dress and big sunglasses while performing ‘Train Train’ from her bluegrass album The Grass is Blue. Then delved into the hits, ‘Why’d You Come In Here Lookin’ Like That’ and ‘Jolene.’ While Pure & Simple is the name of her tour, it also describes the spirit of the legendary singer-songwriter, who’s humble upbringing in eastern Tennessee inspired her persona and the source materials for her earliest hits, ‘My Tennessee Mountain Home,’ ‘Coat of Many Colors’ and ‘Smoky Mountain Memories.’ She’s such a gifted storyteller in song, in memories of her family and through self-deprecating jokes and Dollyisms like ‘it takes a lot of money to look this cheap.’ She’s the consummate entertainer and her stories are the reason everyone loves her, because we all get her.
I particularly get her when she sings my favorite song by her: ‘Baby I’m Burnin’ which opened the second act. In her last sad song of the evening, you could hear a sequin drop in the stadium when she sang ‘Little Sparrow.’ My favorite part of the show. And she brought it home with ‘Two Doors Down,’ ‘Here You Come Again,’ ‘Islands in the Stream,’ ‘9 to 5’ and ‘I Will Always Love You. Before the 10 p.m. bewitching hour, she had time for one more, a mash-up of ‘Hello God’ and ‘He’s Alive,’ a point she referenced given the insanity in the world today. While outlandish and hysterical, I forget how much her faith influences her songs and love. My night with Dolly certainly made me and my Fal Pal feel alive.