Dolly blows 'em away!

View Duane's Dolly concert pics here!

By Duane Gordon


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 can.

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 said.

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 Alive."

"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 prevent this.)

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 that!"

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.