Dolly Parton in 2011/ Getty Images
With Dolly Parton, it’s always been a blur of illusion and reality. Everyone knows about the illusion of wigs, plastic surgery and drag-queen makeup. But everyone accepts the storytelling, songs and voice as real.
In theory, anyway. But not in reality Wednesday at the instantly soldout Mystic Lake Casino showroom. Dolly turned on her rhinestone-studded Tennessee mountain charm, filled the room with her indomitable, positive spirit and lip-synced more than she sang live. Heck, she even faked playing several instruments including fiddle, saxophone, harmonica and piano.
We can accept this kind of illusion from Britney Spears and Cher because fans know that when they buy tickets. But from Dolly Parton,one of the greatest country artists of all-time? To my knowledge, no one else in country lip-syncs in concert. I called Parton on this at her 2004 concert at Xcel Energy Center, and one of the supermarket tabloids picked up the story and Parton admitted to them that she does some lip-syncing.
During her highly entertaining, two-set, 2 1/4-hour performance Wednesday, Dolly seemed to be faking more often than not. It was fairly obvious on "Here You Come Again" and any uptempo song. How could she be panting between songs but able to sing so flawlessly during songs? The sad ballad "Little Sparrow" seemed to be live, with Parton’s haunting voice supported by two of her backup vocalists and a recorded choir chant.
The vivacious, chatty Parton, 65, did a pretty good job of selling her pretty good new album, "Better Day," (doing six songs from it) and her January 2012 movie with Queen Latifah, "Joyful Noise" (doing the title song and a silly rap comparing herself to Latifah that only Dolly could get away with).
As she always does, Dolly talked about her upbringing as one of 12 kids who shared beds, her Mama and Daddy and her husband. Now, she's added her honorary goddaughter, Miley Cyrus, to the discussion. In fact, she surprisingly sang Cyrus’ Hannah Montana theme "Best of Both Worlds." The other surprise selection Wednesday was Ike & Tina Turner’s "River Deep Mountain High," which got Dolly all revved up, shaking her sequined fringe and faking her frenzied singin.’
Here is her Mystic Lake set list:
Set I: Light of a Clear Blue Morning/ Walkin’ on Sunshine (Katrina & the Waves)/ Shine Like the Sun/ Better Get to Livin’/ Jolene/ Rocky Top/ Duelin’ Banjos/ Help (Beatles)/ Shine (Collective Soul)/ Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin)/ Tennessee Mountain Home/ Precious Memoires/ Coat of Many Colors/ Appalachian Memoires/ Son of a Preacher Man (Dusty Springfield)/ Better Day/ Together You and I/ Holding Everything/ Joyful Noise/ rap/ I Want To Take You Higher (Sly Stone) > He Will Take You Higher/ He’s Everything
Set II: White Limozeen/ Best of Both Worlds (Hannah Montana)/ The Sacrifice/ In the Meantime/ Little Sparrow/ River Deep Mountain High (Ike & Tina Turner)/ Here You Come Again/ Islands in the Stream/ 9 to 5 ENCORE I Will Always Love You/ Better Day> Light of a Clear Blue Morning