Karen Cater, copy-desk chief at The Seattle Times, is a longtime fan of classic country -- Tammy, George, Loretta, and of course, Dolly. When our reviewer couldn't get in to see Dolly Parton, she stepped up and gave us her review of Wednesday night's concert in Kent.
Back through the years, Dolly Parton went wandering once again as she brought her “Pure and Simple” tour to Kent’s 6,500-seat Showare Center on Wednesday night with an abundance of back-home stories, well-loved songs and contagious cheer.
As one of just three musicians along on the tour slowly sang “Hello … Dolly,” the curtains parted to reveal the bubbly, blonde-wigged star in all her rhinestoned glory. (She leaves “no rhinestone unturned,” she joked.)
On her first major tour in more than 20 years, Parton claimed she needed the work because “it takes a lot of money to look this cheap.”
As she took the packed house of fans — several wearing massive blonde wigs — through a resume of old hits and new, she told the stories behind them. “We weren’t making enough money back then for him to go to the bank that often,” she said of her seldom-seen husband Carl Dean and an attractive bank teller who inspired “Jolene.” The pair recently celebrated 50 years of marriage with a renewal of their vows.
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When she spun the story behind “Coat of Many Colors,” her personal favorite, Parton said some neighbors had “three rooms and a bath,” but her family with its 12 children had “three rooms and a path” … to the outhouse. But there was running water … “if someone went running to get it.” But seriously, she said, no one deserves to be put down for their financial situation, gender, religion or sexual orientation.
One small nit to pick: she sometimes rambled too long in this first half of storytelling, and some fans might have preferred less talking and more singing. But mostly they ate it up.
To her standards “Here You Come Again,” “Two Doors Down,” “9 to 5,” and “Islands in the Stream,” Parton added the “Pure and Simple” title song from her new album and a surprise medley of classics from the ’60s and ’70s: “American Pie,” “If I Had a Hammer,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Dust in the Wind” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” “I wasn’t a hippie, but I was a little hippy back then,” she said of her fuller figure at the time.
As she talked about her impoverished beginnings and career, Parton was relentlessly upbeat, thanking God and her fans and saying that she never took anything for granted.
Throughout the nearly three-hour set — with an intermission for a change from a white rhinestone-studded pantsuit to a sparkling black dress — Parton impressed the crowd by playing no less than eight instruments: electric guitar, piano, dulcimer, autoharp, banjo, fiddle, harmonica and even a sax.
After she sang “Those Memories of You” from the 1987 “Trio” album she made with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, Parton suggested that the just-released “Trio” box set, featuring 20 never released songs by the threesome, “would make somebody a great Christmas present.” She also touted a Christmas-time TV movie to follow on the success of her “Coat of Many Colors” television drama. And in this one, she gets to play “the town tramp” who inspired her iconic look.
After a brief exit, Parton said she knew “I can’t leave without singing your favorite song” — “I Will Always Love You.” She closed with the poignant “Hello, God,” wondering if there is a prayer of fixing our messed-up world.
Hello God, are you out there?
Can you hear us, are you listenin’ any more?
Hello God, if we’re still on speakin’ terms
Can you help us like before?
After a night with Dolly Parton, it seems there is hope.