Live review: Dolly Parton

dolly

This review originally ran in The Herald Newspaper (Scotland) on June 18, 2014.

Glasgow SSE Hydro

(Five stars)

A supreme being with ivory tresses; a subject of global faith and devotion; a paragon of divine simplicity: wise and heavenly and righteous. But enough about Dolly Parton, let’s talk about God.

The rhinestone cowgirl did so, and then some, in Glasgow’s star-spangled charm offensive – bigging up the ways of the lord (“I think he understands me; I certainly hope he does”), amid tales of her country-folks back home, and her childhood in the Smoky Mountains.

But we’d do well to remember that this is a woman who has created herself in her own image, irrespective of him upstairs, and she lives by her own rules, too.

“Let me hear you say Amen!” she commanded, hammering a glittering church organ beneath a stained-glass backdrop – the only country-soul evangelist that some of us will ever need – before launching into a raucous-gospel rendition of Bon Jovi’s Lay Your Hands On Me.

There were many such kitsch yet strangely revelatory moments in Dolly’s hyper sequinned show: the sense of disbelief at seeing her in front of us; the communal rapture for rodeo-pop hymns like Islands in the Stream and Jolene; the audience ringing out like a choir for a candle-lit I Will Always Love You.

Dolly’s spirit of female empowerment coursed through the set, which celebrated her new album, Blue Smoke, among old favourites and greatest hits, from the matriarchy-championing Coat of Many Colors, to the sisterhood call-to-arms of 9 to 5 – an anthem for the unsung woman, and one of many crowning moments in a career that’s spanned nigh-on five decades and 100 million record sales, and all from the confines of a silver fringed catsuit.

What a way to make a living.

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