Dolly Parton Rogers Arena, Vancouver BC, September 19

Dolly Parton Rogers Arena, Vancouver BC, September 19
Photo: Sharon Steele
There is a very good reason why Dolly Parton has sold over 100 million records, has a theme park named after her, 25 No. 1 hits and can still sell out stadiums after 50 years in the business: simply put, she's an incredible singer, songwriter and performer. She doesn't need any flashy do-dads, explosive effects or even an opener; Monday night (September 19) in Vancouver's sold out Rogers Arena, it was just Dolly, a small backup band, a handsome roadie cowboy assistant named Steve and endless amounts of rhinestones.
Parton took to her "Pure and Simple Tour" with an endearing tell-all narrative approach, taking plenty of time in between each song to explain their origins and to interact with her adoring audience. She opened the show with "Hello Dolly," decked out in a rhinestone flair pantsuit and massive bling-coated heels, her signature big blonde hair and an unstoppable, infectious joy. Not shying away from the topic of her looks — "Do you ever get tired of those dumb blonde jokes? No, cause I know I ain't dumb and I know I ain't blonde!" — Dolly made the audience laugh and swoon between each hit song.
As could be expected, "Jolene" was a stunner; Dolly's stripped-down approach to each song made space for her big voice and personality. Songs like "My Tennessee Mountain Home," "Coat of Many Colors," "Smokey Mountain Memories" and "Applejack" showed Dolly's deep love for her family and her Southern roots. Donning multiple instruments like the dulcimer, guitar, banjo and tiny saxophone (that last one being a real highlight of the evening), Dolly and the Pure and Simple show were a brilliant compilation of camp, storytelling and fantastic musicianship. Dolly's voice is pristine; not a single critique could be made of her harmonizing or delivery.
Of course, an American performer cannot put on a show nowadays without mentioning the election and Dolly couldn't help but poke a little fun at Donald Trump: "I was [even thinking] of running. A few more boobs in the race! I got the hair for it, it's HUGE!" Really there were too many quotable portions of the evening. Dolly is 100% a performer, and her style comes off as incredibly youthful and effortless, despite clearly being an old pro. She followed up this short routine with medley of Americana-centered pieces like "American Pie", "If I Had a Hammer," "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."
One has to see Dolly in person to get the full effect of her many years of success, exemplary songwriting and star power. Renditions of hits "Here You Come Again" and "9 to 5" elicited plenty of emotion from the die-hard Dolly lovers out there and got Vancouver on its feet. "I Will Always Love You" was Dolly's personal message to her fans; she was humbled and grateful for such a loving fan base, she said, and she will always love them back.
Dolly made a gracious host and proved that her star power goes beyond the confines of the country music genre. A living icon, Parton is purely and simply a treasure — one that's earned the title through years of writing about humble beginning and homegrown memories.