Dolly Parton 07/23/11
Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
Every year I make it a goal to catch a living legend at the Hollywood Bowl. In past years I have seen artists including Willie Nelson, Neil Diamond and Aretha Franklin. This year my living legend of choice is Dolly Parton. I could fill this entire post with her accomplishments both on and off the stage, so let’s just talk about the action.
For those outside of Los Angeles, for most of the shows at the Hollywood Bowl, the venue encourages fans to bring in a picnic (including your own beer and wine) and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. As the sun set, I sat with friends eating well, drinking well and enjoying some of the best people watching I have seen in a long time. Elderly women, gay men in cowboy boots, legit Inland Empire county fans, hipster girls in cowboy boots, drag queens dressed as Dolly and at least three separate motorcycle clubs.
The show started at 8:30pm sharp as Miss Parton opened with the Katrina & the Waves hit “Walking On Sunshine.” While many ate and drank under the stars I was ready to rock as Parton busted out one of my favorites “Jolene” early in the set. Many in the crowd including myself quickly discovered that when you see Dolly Parton you get a stand –up comedy show as well as a concert. Between just about every number Dolly joked about the venue (Dollywood Bowl), her age and plastic surgery (it cost a lot to look this cheap) and really whatever she felt like at any given moment.
Dolly paid tribute to her bluegrass roots for part of the show by bringing out a big ol’ Ryman Auditorium microphone and picking upon a banjo for takes on “Rocky Top” and “Mule Skinner Blues.” After joking about artists doing covers and screwing up songs (which included a joke about Whitney Houston screwing hers up all the way to the bank) Parton led her band into a sweet medley that included “Help” by the Beatles, “Shine” by Collective Soul and “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. I truly thought I was tripping when she started to play “Shine” as I have always been a fan of that one. It was the last song I expected to hear and at that point the Queen of Country had me in her pocket. Parton made it clear early on that whatever she wanted to do, she would do much to the delight of the crowd.
One thing I didn’t realize about Dolly Parton is how talented of a musician she is. On this particular Saturday night she rocked a guitar, a banjo, a piano, a dulcimer, a penny whistle and a saxophone. Being so far back in the venue, I probably missed an instrument or two, but you get the idea. Parton also paid a solid amount of time discussing her family and growing up one of twelve kids in between songs like “My Tennessee Mountain Home.”
Towards the end of her first set (here I thought my only two set show at the Hollywood Bowl this year would be Phish) Parton performed her latest single “Together You and I.” As videos of various individuals from different races, religions and beliefs united together played behind her, Parton rocked a jam that sounded a lot like Katy Perry. While pop is not a stretch from Parton what came next shocked and delighted the near capacity venue. Plugging her upcoming Warner Bros. major motion picture “Joyful Noise” (co-starring Queen Latifah), Parton busted out a rather solid freestyle rap. I told you nothing was off limits for the member of the Grand Ole Opry. Parton eventually closed the first set with a new song from the film entitled “He’s Everything.”
While many rushed back to their seats, it was clear Parton had her second wind from the 15 minute break. The set opened with “White Limozeen” but what came next once again shocked the crowd. Another cover, this time Parton tackled the Hannah Montana hit “Best of Both Worlds.” After the song, Parton defended Miley Cyrus (who was apparently in attendance during the Friday night show) and lashed out against the paparazzi who follow her every move.
After performing a few new songs from her latest release “Better Day” Parton hit the crowd wrapped the night with some of her biggest hits. “Little Sparrow” silenced the crowd to the point where you could hear the freeway behind the Bowl hum in the night sky. “Islands In The Stream” and “9 to 5” finally got the crowd up on their feet for a lil dancing. Of course the biggest highlight for most was “I Will Always Love You.” I don’t understand the couples who embrace during this song, but perhaps I missed the whole part about wishing someone you love the best because they no longer need your love.
Another legend off the list, the Dolly Parton live experience was everything I dreamed it would be and more. She truly made you appreciate life and left you walking out of the venue with a huge smile of your face. I really can’t think of a better way to kick off my 2011 run of shows at the Hollywood Bowl.