The iconic country music singer came to Illinois Thursday for her Better Day World Tour. The tour is to promote her new album that is also titled “Better Day”. All of the songs of the album are of a positive, uplifting nature and the concert had the same feel to it.
Dolly arrived on stage right on time in a tight sequined turquoise dress singing a medley of “Light of a Clear Blue Morning”/”Walking on Sunshine” with parts of her new song “Shine Like the Sun” mixed with it. The crowd clearly adored Parton and was instantly on their feet the minute she arrived on stage. Next came “Jolene” complete with Parton on the acoustic guitar. Parton joked that she was glad we remembered her because she had been trying to forget her for years. “Better Get to Livin” was next from Parton’s last album “Backwoods Barbie”. Then Parton switched over to a bluegrass segment and had her stage crew bring out her banjo and an old time microphone.
She and her band played a stellar rendition of “Dueling Banjos”. I was amazed and fascinated that Parton could play the banjo with those very long fingernails but she proved to be very adept at it. Next, Parton broke into a series of bluegrass songs that she has sung over the years including “Rocky Top”, “Help!”, “Shine”, “Mule Skinner Blues”, complete with her famous yodeling, and a very moving rendition of “Stairway to Heaven”. She told the audience that it was her husband’s favorite song but when he heard her version he thought it was sacrilege and should now be called “Stairway to Hell”. Parton then took the audience back to the hills of her Smokey Mountain home with songs like “Precious Memories”, “My Tennessee Mountain Home”, “Smokey Mountain Memories” and her signature song “Coat of Many Colors”. Throughout all these songs Parton played the autoharp, and dulcimer. Next on the list came Parton’s version of Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” complete with a saxophone solo by Parton. Dolly then moved on to songs from her new album. She sang “Together You and I”, “Better Day”, complete with Parton on a gold rhinestone piano, and the duet “Holding Everything “with her producer Kent Wells. Dolly then talked about her new movie that she is staring in with Queen Latifa. Apparently Queen’s rap skills have rubbed off onto to Dolly because she broke out into a free verse rap that really wasn’t half bad. After the rap Dolly sang a few gospel numbers from the movie. Dolly’s voice was made for these types of songs and she sounded stellar on them. She even danced a little and joked that the film crew tried to teach her to dance but ended up pretty much just having to drag her around. Dolly then took a 15 minute intermission.
Right on the dot after her 15 minute break was up Parton bounded back onto the stage this time in a sparkly red sequined pantsuit. She started the second half of the show with her hit song “White Limousine” complete with Parton on the electric guitar. She then asked if there were any kids in the audience and when several yelled out she broke into the Hannah Montana theme song called “The Best of Both Worlds”. Miley Cyrus the star of Hannah Montana is Dolly’s goddaughter and Parton was on the show several times as Aunt Dolly. Dolly then went back to singing some new songs. These included “The Sacrifice” and “In the Meantime “complete with Parton doing two harmonica solos. The former was about the sacrifices Parton has had to make over the years to advance her career and the latter is about people needing to live in the here and now and to not worry too much about the future. Parton next did an a capella version of her song “Little Sparrow”. This was one of the most amazing moments of the whole show. Parton’s powerful voice resounded through the whole theatre and the audience remained so quiet that you could have heard a pin drop. Next, came Parton’s rendition of River Deep- Mountain High. She even completed the song with her own version of Tina Turner’s leg dance that wasn’t half bad and made the whole audience laugh in delight. After this Parton did a few of her most well known songs, including “Islands in the Stream”, “Here You Come Again”, and “9 to 5”, which got the whole audience on their feet clapping and dancing. For the encore came “I Will Always Love You” and “Light of a Clear Blue Morning”.
Over all the concert was spectacular. Parton’s voice has remained crystal clear, vibrant, and young sounding after all these years. Her voice never seems to change and is still powerful. Her voice is expressive at even the quietest whisper. She played a multitude of instruments and gave each and every song her all. She tells stories throughout the show and even a few jokes. She makes you feel like you’re her family and are sitting at her feet at a family gathering instead of at a concert. She still looks incredibly beautiful. You would never guess that she is 65; she looks no older than 45 or 50 and has the energy and tenacity of a 20 year old. Going to her concert was one of the greatest moments of my life and I will forever cherish the experience. If you get the chance to see Dolly live, I would truly recommend doing so. She is a true performer who knows how to work an audience and is truly a living legend or maybe even an angel among us.