I never knew so many Dolly Parton fans were somewhere over the GLBT rainbow. If you asked me to describe the crowd waiting to get into the Chicago Theatre on the Friday of her concert, it looked like there was a lesbian rugby game at Sidetrack with a special appearance by Margaret Cho. The gay were out in full force to see Dolly, and by golly, our Southern Sister didn't let a single one of us down.
At exactly 7:30 ( nothing fashionably late about her ) a lone harmonica player parted the curtains and began to wail. Immediately the backdrop lifted and there she was, strapped in a purple sequined gown, with hair that would make even Lady Bunny envious.
'The Vintage Tour' was an evening of fantastic contrast. She was glammed to the hilt with sequins coating nearly every instrument she played ( six by my count ) , yet her warm endearing Tennessee charm never failed for one moment. That duality of showbiz on the outside and genuine person on the inside has always been her key to success.
Her voice is still as strong as it was on day one, despite the occasional hint of a guide vocal here and there. The band and her backups were fantastic, and she kept the energy of the show high by making jokes all the way through, many of which were at her expense. 'It takes a lot of money to look this cheap' she quipped.
'I've got one microphone there, and one here, and one, umm, well, between these two things,' she said while gesturing to her chest. There were several other comments made along the same lines during the evening, causing the audience to roar with laughter. Planned or not, it didn't matter. She instantly connected with everyone.
That connection was solid the entire time. As the show came to a close, she began to sing 'Imagine' which also happens to close her new album called 'Those Were The Days'.
At first, I thought it was too much of a stretch, even for someone like her. But by the end of the song, the audience was with her on every word, singing along. For a brief moment, she was preaching by singing that song. Not in a pushy way, but in a very human way.
Despite the glamour, despite the immense glittering 'Dolly' drawn on the stage backdrop, and despite what would appear to have been millions of sequins on stage, Dolly Parton was a person like the rest of us, just standing there, singing with us. No drama, no conceit, no pretense.
It was refreshing. And, in this world of plastic pop stars, where new ones come and go each day, it was a testament to her long-lived career. And I suspect, with no end in sight, she will continue to delight audiences around the world for years to come with the phenomenon we call Dolly Parton.
With you in 4/4,