She literally sparkled in her hot-pink dress and then, after the intermission, canary-yellow jumper with shorts. Both were dripping with silver twinkling sequins, which emphasized just about everything when she shimmied for us toward the end of her show.
For the first half of the show, Dolly began almost every song with a witty introduction, relaying some of her signature quotes and personal stories. "I'm glad you remember that song," she announced after strumming on a guitar for "Jolene" (her guitar is bedazzled -- even her instruments are cute!). Ms. Parton joked that the song was based on truth. When her husband and she were first married and poor, he spent a lot of time at the bank. She noted, "He was looking more for interest, because he had no principle." Adding that when she sees him drooling now, passed out, she yells, "Jolene, where are you girl?" It was one of the best little concerts in South Florida, with built-in standup!
A few times, she and her band played half a song and then stopped so that Dolly could chatter, then continued with the same tune. She covered a few songs, including the Beatles "Help," Collective Soul's "Shine," and Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," during which a yellow light shone down on her angelic head. Her husband is apparently a Zeppelin fan and wasn't into the bluegrass elements Dolly added to the song, calling it "Stairwell to Hell."
After playing some of her favorites, she took us back in time and to another place by singing about growing up in Tennessee. With "Tennessee Mountain Home," she talked about having 12 siblings, calling her parents "horny hillbillies." An a cappella version of "Precious Memories" was touching, and when she dedicated "Coat of Many Colors" to her mom and "Appalachian Memories" to her father, there were some tears held back.
Though she had a full band and three backup singers, the gifted musician brought a variety of instruments with her to play onstage. She played the fiddle, guitar, dulcimer, autoharp, recorder, child-sized saxophone (when holding this, she said she was "feeling saxy!"), and even a tiny glittering grand piano. There was even a girl-against-boys dueling banjos with members of her band, which she jokingly called the Saggy Bottom Boys.
Songs off of her new Better Day album, with its contemporary sound, went over well with the crowd. After all those jokes, though, she could have just sat there and we would have eaten it up. The bluesy title track got some of the short-haired ladies to their feet to sway.
And then she rapped. What started out as probably the most potentially uncool part of the evening ended in a joke that made the whole thing worth bearing. Dolly and Queen Latifah will be appearing in an upcoming gospel musical called Joyful Noise. The rap was aimed at talking about her costar, "You may be the Queen, but I'm the white trash princess!" Just when we were about to say, "Mom! You're embarrassing me!" she made it all better by speaking the truth, "You do know that country mixed with rap is crap!"
"He Will Take You Higher" included some lyrics from Chris Brown's "Forever" in there, which was more surprising than even the Collective Soul stuff. A haunting and almost spooky version of "Little Sparrow" marked the end to any sad stuff last night. Dolly then led us into the finale with some fun-times Tina Turner dancing and a cover of her "Deep River, Mountain High." A duet of "Islands in the Stream" with her Kenny Rogers-lookalike back-up singer got everyone singing along.
Finally, she melted our hearts by dedicating a love song to us. As she belted out "I Will Always Love You," the words repeating on everyone's lips in the audience, a glistening eye or two, it was clear the sentiment was shared.
Crowd: Gender questionables, drunken aging ladies, and a couple of cowboy hats.
Random details: The ladies working concession and the ones sweeping up the floors all swayed and bounced when Dolly's voice wafted from the theater.
I Can See the Light
Walking on Sunshine
Baby I'm Burning
Tennessee Mountain Home
Coat of Many Colors
Son of a Preacher Man
Together You and I
He Will Take You Higher
Two Doors Down
Why'd You Come in Here Lookin' Like That
River Deep, Mountain High
Here You Come Again
Islands in the Stream
9 to 5