CEDAR RAPIDS — What’s pure and simple to Dolly Parton is purely elegant to everyone else.
Soft, vibrant colors played off five sheer, white drapes accented with staggered rows of Edison lights, bathing her in a dancing firefly glow at the U.S. Cellular Center on Tuesday night. In turn, she enveloped her nearly sold-out crowd with two-and-a-half hours of lively hits, new love songs, nostalgic memories and the mountain music of her youth — like a kicky, comfortable coat of her many colors.
From the bluegrass bling of “Train, Train” to the heartfelt beauty of “I Will Always Love You,” this country queen felt more like a favorite cousin being welcomed home by about 6,000 kin. She thanked her fans often and sincerely as she poised her petite frame on impossibly high silver rhinestone heels.
Yes, even when she’s pure and simple, she adorns her outfits, her instruments and her music in a tasteful array of glimmering shimmer.
She’s spent six decades in the spotlight on the world’s biggest stages, but she never forgets the pure and simple love of her mama and daddy and the life they made for their 12 children in the mountains of Tennessee — as well as the love she shares with Carl Dean, her husband of 50 years. All those relationships inspire the music she’s written and infuse her musical heritage.
Party songs like “Why’d You Come in Here Lookin’ Like That?” and “Two Doors Down.” The menacing, don’t-mess-with-my-man bite of “Jolene.” The melting romance of “Pure & Simple,” embracing such golden sentiments as “I can’t believe you’re really mine.” The bouncy lilt of “Here You Come Again,” “Islands in the Stream” and “9 to 5.” And sweet odes to her mama’s love in “Coat of Many Colors” and her father’s hard work and “busted up hands” in “Smoky Mountain Memories.”
All of her tales are woven with humor and humility, which endears her even more to her fans.
Perhaps the evening’s most surprising element was the sheer vastness of her talents. Not only is she a consummate singer/songwriter, but she plays banjo, piano, guitar, fiddle, blistering soprano saxophone, autoharp, harmonica and haunting pennywhistle.
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Her three musicians joined her on piano, percussion, guitar, bass, lending lovely vocal harmonies on ballads and spirited gospel songs. Their best harmonies laced a tight jazz edge through the country sounds of “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?”
It’s safe to say she’ll be crossing the minds of everyone lucky enough to witness such artistry.