On Tuesday night I accepted an invitation to see Dolly Parton at the Hydro in Glasgow. Her publicist had kindly asked us to come early so we could ‘say hello.’ I went along with my old buddy Davie Scott (of Pearlfishers fame) and we duly waited back stage to see at first hand the full Dolly machine in operation. We stood in amazed awe as Dolly stood for a good 30 -40 minutes meeting and greeting numerous fans. To each one she was patient and courteous and inquisitive. Photographs were taken and warm exchanges given. In this age of the VIP pass and the ‘added value’ ticket this was the first lady of country spending the best part of her pre show prep time with her fans. Like many things that come as surprises to me these days I found it quite moving.
I was slightly worried about the gig. The first time I’d seen Dolly was one of the great nights of my life. Up there with the best gigs of all time it had been her bluegrass show and the playing and singing had been exemplary. It had been at the Armadillo and I remember feeling slightly guilty that we’d been given tickets when people around us were spending huge sums of money just to be there. The next time I tried every available blag I know to get a ticket and failed…..(should have bought them early!) So I’d jumped at the chance of going to the SECC show a couple of years back. I enjoyed this less as it seemed to be more about the phenomenon (and she is folks) of Dolly than about the great singer/songwriter I know her to be. Nevertheless…there is always much to enjoy.
This time it was The Hydro – now one of Glasgow’s best assets – and the fit was perfect. Dolly was sublime. She played new songs, told brilliant stories – always with that knowing undercurrent of acknowledging exactly who she is and what her audience wants to hear – and reminded us in two brilliant hours why she is still at the top of her game. One telling moment was when the back projections reeled out a discography. It went from the sixties until now and it was incredible to think there really had been no time since she first broke through when she hadn’t been a major star. But more than anything else it was the songs….she did Jolene three songs in….that’s confidence! She played brilliant versions of Coat of Many Colours, Here You Come Again, Little Sparrow and great versions of Blue Smoke and Banks of The Ohio from the new album. She finished the show with I Will Always Love You and she graciously paid tribute to the late Whitney Houston – even though millions of people loved the song before Whitney’s world dominating version.
This Friday I will give you more reasons to love Dolly but for now let me say this. A cliche is a cliche because it’s true and certain artists are massively successful because they are actually really great.
This Friday we will also let you hear new records from Jenny Lewis, Blue Rose Code, Peter Mulvey, Lindsay Lou and The Flatbellys and Strand of Oak. None of this should be missed it if you can help it. Join me if you’re free from five past eight this Friday on BBC Radio Scotland.