Dolly Scores Big In The Big Easy

By Duane Gordon
All images of Dolly Parton at House of Blues New Orleans are copyright 2002 Duane Gordon/Dollymania and may not be reproduced without prior written consent.

NEW ORLEANS -- Dolly was as bright and funny as ever as she wowed the sold-out crowd of about 1,000 at House of Blues New Orleans Monday night. A rather young crowd, about half fell into the 18-30 category, especially those who clamored to the front of the general admission venue. The audience also appeared to be about 50-50 straight and gay.
     When her band, the Blueniques, took to the stage for a couple of opening tunes, the audience kept them from starting for a minute or two with very loud chants of "DOLLY! DOLLY! DOLLY! DOLLY!"
     After their numbers, Dolly was welcomed by the screaming masses as she took to the stage for "Orange Blossom Special."

     Several of her "horny fans," as she has taken to calling those donning plastic horns on their heads, were at the front of the hall and scattered throughout as well, many of whom had added shimmering halos to their get up. Dolly commented that there were "a lot of the horny fans out there and (pointing to the balcony) up there, even without the headdress!"
     With her voice as perfect and melodic as ever, she danced around the stage, waving her arms in a religious fervor as she reached some amazingly strong and long-held notes on "Shine."
     Repeated cries of "We love you, Dolly!" by some over-excited fans delayed her start of "Little Sparrow," prompting some in the audience to loudly "Shh" those around them.
     Dolly exhibited her command of several instruments throughout the show, playing the acoustic guitar on the first several numbers, the dulcimer on "My Tennessee Mountain Home" and "Coat of Many Colors," banjo for "Applejack," a soulful harmonica for "I'm Gone," and an electric "wah-wah" guitar on "If." Although some reviews of earlier shows have criticized her skill on this instrument, her performance has apparently improved with time, as she played it perfectly in New Orleans with the exception of one chord which was a bit off near the song's start.
     Her humor and playfulness were as adept as ever throughout the night. When she told the famous story of wanting to buy her mother a mink coat with the royalty check from "Coat of Many Colors," she added: "Money can't buy love, but it can buy something so reasonably close that you won't notice it!"
     As she transitioned into the slow, soft "Mountain Angel," she asked the audience not to clap to the rhythm due to the song's quiet melody, at which time she quipped: "I know you've got the clap! Well, I don't know, maybe you do! I'd better stop while I'm behind."

     When she did her brief parody of "Who Let The Dogs Out" as the "hic-hop" "Who Let The Hogs Out," some of the horny fans crew held up pig masks. Laughing wildly, she said they came very prepared and asked if they were selling merchandize down there. She added that maybe they misunderstood the album's title as Halos & Hogs.
     And noting a couple of female impersonators in the audience and a couple she saw walk by her bus earlier in the evening, she repeated the "drag queen, please don't take my man" line in "Jolene."
     The evening had some very serious notes, too, chief among them her tribute to her late father with "Smoky Mountain Memories," about which she remarked: "You don't know how much you'll miss someone 'till they're gone." She added an instruction to her fans there that night: "So, you make peace with your family."
     But the main event was the music. Dolly sounded better than ever, and her band was top-notch in their picking. The real highlight was the a capella set of "Islands In The Stream," "Here You Come Again," "Why'd You Come In Here Lookin' Like That?" and "Two Doors Down," mostly sung in a style reminiscent of a '50s doo-wop band. A stupendous performance, it must be heard to be believed!
     And her working of "Calm On The Water," backed just by her band members' voices and her own guitar strumming, was delightful.
     Her only mistake in the show was getting a few of the lyrics to "After The Goldrush" mixed up at the line "There was a fanfare blowing to the sun, that was floating on the breeze." Even watching her teleprompter, she got lost and started the song over again, joking: "I didn't know what was blowing in the wind! I thought it was the answer!" The audience cheered loudly when she sang the correct line and smiled.

     The show concluded with an emotive "I Will Always Love You," which had even audience members who had not sung along to one note of the night's selections moving their lips to the words.
     Overall, she gave a fabulously almost-flawless performance which left the audience, although more than satisfied, still begging for more. Unfortunately, as has been her custom throughout this tour, she did not perform an encore.

Set List:

  • Orange Blossom Special/Train, Train
  • The Grass Is Blue
  • Mountain Angel
  • Little Sparrow
  • Shine
  • Rocky Top
  • My Tennessee Mountain Home
  • Coat Of Many Colors
  • Smoky Mountain Memories
  • Applejack
  • Marry Me
  • Halos And Horns
  • I'm Gone
  • Dagger Through The Heart
  • If
  • 9 to 5
  • Jolene
  • A capella medley
  • Calm On The Water
  • After The Goldrush
  • I Will Always Love You

         Several in the audience stopped by the night before for the official pre-concert and CD release party at The Bourbon Pub, which also went very well. Some attendees remarked that they felt the DJ started playing Dolly music a little later than he should have (but they didn't seem to mind the dancers on the bar before the Dolly festivities began).
         The video wall featured clips of Dolly performing in 9 to 5, The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, Steel Magnolias, Bette, her ABC variety show (especially the episode filmed in New Orleans), HBO concerts and more to the delight of the fans. Even one Dolly impersonator took to the bar, spotlighted by bartenders holding flashlights as she lipsynched a couple of numbers.
         A handful of CDs, tour posters, album flats and other items were handed out as revelers danced and sang along with Dolly on the screen.
         A special thanks to Lawrence and all of the guys at the bar for hosting the party and supporting Dolly!

    See a gallery of additional Dollymania images from the show here!

    Although the newspaper hasn't to my knowledge published a review of the show, The Times-Picayune on Friday used Dolly as its cover girl for its weekend section of the paper, with a feature story previewing the concert and talking about her new CD, the tour, her career and her life. The story is available here (a link first provided to you here on Saturday). The print version also carried a Dolly career time-line based largely on information gathered from Dollymania, but it isn't included in the online edition.