Article By Randy Cordova for The Republic | azcentral.com
The times may change, but at age 68, Dolly Parton is just as charming as ever. During her concert at Comerica Theatre on Tuesday, Feb. 28, the singer dripped with Smoky Mountain wisdom and sassy little one-liners.
For instance, she talked about growing up in a family of 12 children. “We’re not Catholic,” she said, sweet as molasses. “We’re just horny hillbillies.”
It’s the kind of cornpone humor that could get awfully sticky in lesser hands, but Parton is a pro. Everything she said dripped with sincerity, even though she’s probably perfected the gags through the years. After finishing “Jolene,” she chatted with a couple of Dolly impersonators sitting in the front row.
“Jolene or drag queen?” she asked. “You girls-slash-boys enjoy the show!”
It would have been near-impossible not to enjoy Parton. Aside from the good-natured banter that filled the night — she seemed to talk between every song — she offered a packed set list that aimed to touch on every aspect of her career.
For fans of pop fluff, there were items like 1978’s irresistible “Two Doors Down,” a bouncy tune from her crossover heyday. Even without Kenny Rogers, she ventured down to the Bee Gees-country of “Islands in the Stream,” which had the near-capacity crowd at Comerica up on its feet.
Most of the early classics she opted to perform were stuffed into a medley, although she delivered a full “Coast of Many Colors,” complete with story about how “Momma” created the garment that gave the 1971 tune its name. Even if you’ve heard the tale before, it was a tearjerker.
The show’s strongest musical moments came when the spotlight was on her voice. She offered a near-a cappella rendition of her composition “Little Sparrow,” and her distinctive vocal trills and curlicues could send a shiver down a listener’s spine. Same thing went for a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” which she delivered with two backing singers. The Appalachian harmonies were impeccable, and Parton’s way of highlighting certain lyrics with her conversational delivery was put to good use.
She sounded amazing throughout. At times, she almost sounded too perfect: She’s confessed to lip-synching on earlier tours, and there were moments here when it appeared she could have been benefiting from some electronic enhancement. During some live TV appearances, her voice has sounded a bit frayed with age, but there were no imperfections evident on Tuesday.
On the other hand, it was a concert, not a singing competition, so it was hard to fault her too much, especially when the end result was so entertaining.
“Baby I’m Burning”
“Why’d You Come in Here Lookin’ Like That”
“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”
“My Tennessee Mountain Home”
“Smoky Mountain Memories”
Medley: “(Give Me That) Old-Time Religion”/”I’ll Fly Away”/“I’m on My Way to Canaan’s Land”
“Coat of Many Colors”
“Smoky Mountain Memories”
“Together (You and I)”
“Lay Your Hands on Me”
“Two Doors Down”
“Better Get to Livin’ ”
“Banks of the Ohio”
Medley: “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right”/“The Bargain Store”/ “Love is Like a Butterfly”/“Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle To You”/“But You Know I Love You”/“Real Love”/“Think About Love”
“Here You Come Again”
“Islands in the Stream”
“9 to 5”
“I Will Always Love You”