Her angelic voice excelled throughout the entire show as Dolly Parton brought
the crowd to its feet Saturday night as part of the Opryland Hotel's New Year's
celebration with opening act Steve Wariner and special guests Alison Krauss and
members of the Christ Church Choir.
The voice, that's what sets Dolly apart. And it showed no signs of age or
fatigue or stress as its perfect pitch captivated the crowd in the hotel's Delta
Ballroom, working magic over their minds through melody and poetry as only she
Dolly entered the stage to thunderous applause at the opening of "Two Doors
Down," a song she noted was appropriate for the party atmosphere, as she
strutted in a shimmering silver fringed blouse and skirt and waved at the
capacity audience of about 2,400.
Next came the classic "Jolene," after which she began a slew of Y2K computer
bug jokes which had the crowd barreling over with laughter. "Well, if I had a
glitch, I'd scratch it," she laughed. She explained she remains completely
computer illiterate and discovered this when her nieces attempted to solicit
help from her with their computer. "All I know about hard drives is what I
learned in my '63 Chevy!" she joshed, adding that she had to explain to her
parents afterward about the "megabytes" on her neck. "I guess I was the original
laptop!" she continued, to the loudest laughter of the evening, noting next that
she'd never had any problems with a "floppy disk."
Upon commenting on how nice the audience looked, she jumped into a rowdy
rendition of "Why'd You Come in Here Lookin' Like That," followed by "Here You
Come Again." Then she said everyone would have to go to work on Monday and see
if their computers are really working, to which many in the crowd booed,
expressing their lackluster opinion on leaving the weekend's festivities behind.
Well, she suggested, even if you don't want to go to work, you can sing about
it, as she lunged into "9 to 5." Afterward, she said that time has really passed
by quickly, as that song and film came out nearly 20 years ago.
Taking a little pause, she explained how she wrote a song for the film
Steel Magnolias which they decided not to use in the movie. But it spoke
of the strength of women, she said, and not only do women like it, but men often
request she sing it and dedicate it to their spouses. So as she began the song,
she said it was from all the men in the room to their wives or girlfriends.
As a few other faces began to crowd the stage, she explained she wanted to do
a special segment she would call "The Tennessee Mountain Home Segment," in honor
of her new bluegrass album, The Grass is Blue, and the agreement from
Alison Krauss and some of her pickin' friends to join her for the concert to
reflect on the music to which she was exposed as a child in the hills of East
Tennessee. Even Dolly herself picked up her guitar to join the musicians on "My
Tennessee Mountain Home" and "Coat of Many Colors," which sounded especially
natural with the accompaniment of banjo, fiddle and mandolin and the sweet
harmonies of Ms. Krauss.
Of course, "Coat of Many Colors," a story of a ragged coat her mother
stitched her as a child and the taunting she endured from children at school
because of it, led to talking about her large, musical family and the love they
had for one another. Along with her usual joke about having to place their
mother on a pedestal as the only way to keep their father away from her, she
noted that when she talks about coming from a family of a dozen kids, people
always ask if they're Catholic. "No, just horny Baptists and Holy Rollers," she
Plugging her new CD, she noted that she hopes it sells well so she can do a
second bluegrass album and how thrilled she was to be inducted this year into
the Country Music Hall of Fame. Introducing "Train, Train," she recalled how she
was able to perform it at the induction ceremony. "I got to sing on the show, so
I didn't feel all that old," the 53-year-old said.
That portion of the show closed with a tender rendering of "The Grass is
Blue," after which Ms. Krauss and the bluegrass pickers left the stage.
She then called up brother-in-law Richard Dennison for a couple of duets,
explaining that Kenny Rogers couldn't be there because he was on his way back to
the North Pole. (With only a few chuckles, Dolly felt she needed to explain that
the statement meant he looked like Santa Claus, after which more laughter
followed.) She and Richard, who offered a formidable replacement for her usual
duet partner, performed "Islands in The Stream" and "Rockin' Years."
Although Linda and Emmylou couldn't be there Saturday, Dolly said their
collaborations have been among the most precious to her as she began "After the
Goldrush." (Although the song appeared on Trio II, she sang the version
she recorded for Treasures.) She appeared iridescent, bathed in the glow
of an amber spotlight. I overheard a lady at a neighboring table exclaim that it
gave her an almost "psychedelic" look in the big-screen projections at each side
of the stage.
Parting from her usual format, she said that it was time to say goodbye and
sang her signature 1974 composition "I Will Always Love You," making sure to
note its appearance three times on the country charts in addition to Whitney
Houston's smash pop hit and adding that just maybe "it might get recorded
another 1,000 times this century." Amid a standing ovation after the final
chorus, about 100 fans rushed to the stage. Dolly came back, shook a few hands
and stood at the microphone to say it wasn't really over yet, but if they'd help
her sing the chorus again she'd have a special surprise.
After the song, she asked everyone to sit back down. She said she believed
that to usher in a new year and a new millennium it would only be appropriate to
offer "praise and honor to God," so she invited the wonderful Christ Church
Choir, or "as many of them as would fit on the stage," to join her.
With the choir in place (about 30 members standing on three choral platforms
on the right, center and left of the stage), Dolly's voice pierced the silence
with the first verse of "I Am Ready," the beautiful a capella number her sister
Rachael Dennison (who was present) wrote and which Dolly had recorded on The
Grass is Blue. The choir joined in, and the audience began clapping to the
rhythm. Without a pause, they went right into her 1975 classic gospel tune "The
Seeker," followed by her chillingly moving cover of Don Francisco's "He's
"We're having a little church tonight!" one audience member exclaimed as yet
another standing ovation erupted at the song's conclusion. (Also, another group
of fans attempted to storm the stage again, but hotel personnel locked arms to
The crowd remained standing and applauding long after Dolly exited and the
choir offered another chorus of "He's Alive."
With the show over at about 11:15 p.m., the crowd was alive with excitement.
"Now what do we do?" one woman asked. "We certainly can't go to sleep after
Dolly's complete set list: Two Doors Down, Jolene, Why'd
You Come in Here Lookin' Like That, Here You Come Again, 9 to 5, Eagle When She
Flies; with Alison Krauss and guest musicians - My Tennessee Mountain Home, Coat
of Many Colors, Train Train, The Grass is Blue; with Richard Dennison - Islands
in The Stream, Rockin' Years; After the Goldrush, I Will Always Love You; with
Christ Church Choir - I Am Ready, The Seeker, He's Alive.
Of course, while Dolly was the star of the weekend, she wasn't its only
attraction. Prior to the concert, the hotel treated the audience to a delectable
four-course meal featuring halibut, chicken, beef fillet and a strawberry mousse
encased in a chocolate shell.
This was followed by a tremendously entertaining 50-minute show by Steve
Wariner, who gave the treat of performing not only several of his recorded hits
(from "The Weekend" to the more recent "I'm Already Taken" and "Two Teardrops")
but also a couple he's written which others have made popular ("Longneck Bottle"
and "Nothin' But the Taillights"). He closed with his emotional "Holes in the
Floor of Heaven."
Saturday morning, guests were provided a delicious and massive brunch, with
just about every breakfast food imaginable.
And the big night Friday centered around a party in the magnificent indoor
forest and river of the Delta section of the hotel. Several live bands performed
standards and current hits from many genres, as party-goers danced and drank and
had a good time. As midnight approached, the crowd gathered around the area's
fountain to watch a spectacular indoor fireworks display, toast their glasses of
champagne and ring in 2000.
So what if the real millennium doesn't technically start until 2001, it was
an awesome party, and a memorable time was had by all!
Dollymania wishes to express its appreciation to the Opryland Hotel and
Paul Lindsley, public relations manager, for making the arrangements to attend
the festivities. The hotel staff was courteous and efficient, the food
excellent, the accommodations wonderful, the entertainment superb, and one could
not have asked for a better weekend. For more information about the hotel and
its other amenities, contact them at 1-888-976-1999 or click here.