Published on theMusic.com.au
It became clear the last stop on Dolly Parton’s Blue Smoke World Tour would be a trip down memory lane as Perth Arena’s pink-tinged stage lit up to an instrumental medley of hits, accompanied a collage of old photos and album covers.
A somewhat unconvincing entrance (later blamed on technical difficulties) to the sounds of Baby, I’m Burning was soon rectified with crowd favourite Jolene. Dressed head-to-toe in sparkling white attire, and with a wide selection of instruments, Parton jokingly announced, “You’d be surprised how expensive it is to look so cheap.”
Humour was only part of the 68-year-old’s charm, and between classic tunes, including Coat Of Many Colours, sat intimate and heartfelt stories of her life. Remove the music from her show and you’d have enough material to entertain a packed-out arena for an hour. It was almost as if she was recording material for an audiobook that would accompany her biography.
Running through a slew of different instruments like she was trying to break some kind of record, Parton equipped herself with a flute, banjo, saxophone, harmonica and others whilst rattling through Blue Smoke, Smokey Mountain Memories, My Tennessee Mountain Home and more.
She offered up the highest level of praise for Bob Dylan and said if she is ever to do an album full of covers from one artist, she’d choose him. “It would be called Dolly Does Dylan,” she laughed. Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice was soon to follow.
A white piano bellowing with the sound of a church organ appeared out of nowhere and the stage was transformed into the Church Of Dolly for a soothing rendition of Bon Jovi’s Lay Your Hands On Me before a brief intermission allowed Parton to slide into a dress and continue with Two Doors Down.
The venue fell dead silent for a captivating performance of Little Sparrow before Parton hightailed it out of “sadville” with a bluegrass-themed version of Billy Joel’s Travelin’ Prayer. Banjos and fiddles assembled for a cover of Collective Soul’s Shine, and it seemed that maybe she realised she’d been spending a little too long on covers as she rounded out the set in much the same the way as it began with an intense medley that featured snippets of It’s All Wrong But It’s All Right, Love Is Like A Butterfly, Old Flames Can’t Hold A Candle To You and more. I Will Always Love You saw a triumphant end to a set that reminded most of a time when musicians were more like entertainers.