Page 2 of 2 Previous
To paraphrase a Kris Kristofferson lyric, Dolly Parton is a world-class contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.
She is a sharp-as-a-pitchfork bumpkin, an MBA-smart blonde, a Hollywood-glam hillbilly. She has been nipped and tucked as much as Cher, but she tries to keep it real with her music.
"Don't let these false eyelashes lead you to believe that I'm as shallow as I look, 'cause I run true and deep," she sang Wednesday at Northrop Auditorium during "Backwoods Barbie," which could have been the theme of her concert.
The first half of her two-hour show was Dollywood slick, with her 11-person band sounding seamless and anonymous and with the star lip-synching her way through some of her biggest songs and chatting nonstop like your gossipy next-door neighbor. She fired off a barrage of jokes, some self-deprecating, some corny. But her ability to be silly and sincere in the same sentence -- another contradiction -- had its charm.
Ultimately, this show was as much about Parton's personality as her music. And that effervescent personality shone brighter than all the rhinestones on her dresses, piano, guitar, dulcimer and autoharp combined.
Despite all the Vegas-worthy glitz and gimmicks, she brought a TV-studio intimacy to Northrop. She sat and told a wordy tale about her hardscrabble but not hard-luck upbringing before singing her classic "Coat of Many Colors." After too many bland arrangements, she grabbed hearts with the atmospheric, Irish-flavored "Only Dreamin'," a sad number from her current "Backwoods Barbie" album.
In the second half, Parton, 62, seemed more relaxed and more in the moment. By then, it felt as if 3,300 people were witnessing Dolly's own talk show.
She answered fan questions from cards about her life and career. She bounced through her crossover hits, including the clap-along "9 to 5." She featured each member of her group during a medley of 1950s and '60s rock hits that could have seemed as manufactured as her image but instead came across as generous and respectful of her musicians as she joyously sang backup.
The unstoppably entertaining legend closed with "I Will Always Love You," her Smoky Mountain soprano fluttering like a butterfly as her fans -- from teens who recognize her as Hannah Montana's Aunt Dolly to seniors who heard "Jolene" back in 1973 -- roared back with their love. True and deep, indeed.
For set list and fan comments: www.startribune.com/poplife. Jon Bream • 612-673-1719