Dolly Parton wows the crowd in ‘Brum’

Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton

She might have drawn the biggest crowd at Glastonbury but Dolly Parton had already wowed Midlanders before becoming this summer’s undisputed festival queen in Somerset.

A welcome return to the LG Arena saw a packed house turn out to worship at the altar of a woman, who even in the larger than life world of country music, stands out as a true legend.

To the uninitiated an audience with Dolly tends to follow a set format, with songs spanning the 68-year-old’s lengthy career, interspersed with storytelling about her life and a fair few jokes – many of which have been told before in some form or other. That said they still elicit plenty of laughs.

There was even room for a little bit of religion, though it was done in a way that was incidental and inoffensive, rather than being overt and evangelical.

Dolly’s status as a musical legend is justified and hard-earned, rather than being bestowed after a mere 15 minutes of fame – as is often the case these days.

She’s a singer who has been performing since the age of ten and almost 60 years on, the bright light this star emits shows no sign of waning.

As well as being one of the world’s best-known female country singers there’s a lot more to Dolly, in particular her status as a songwriter.

Her back catalogue would be the envy of many, ranging from Jolene – a song she will forever be associated with – to I Will Always Love You, a number made famous around the world by Whitney Houston.

Both featured in her appearance before an adoring audience in Birmingham and the hits came thick and fast in a show that consisted of two halves, with Dolly performing for more than two hours in total and playing almost 30 songs.

They encompassed everything from her debut album Hello, I’m Dolly in 1967 to her latest offering Blue Smoke.

Blue Smoke is more than just an album to hang a tour on though. The title track is an old-fashioned fast-paced country number with bluegrass elements and instantly likeable.

Other highlights are a couple of unusual covers in the shape of Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice and Bon Jovi’s Lay Your Hands on Me, which has been given a rousing gospel re-working.

Another track played from it was a fresh and inspired reinterpretatin of Banks of the Ohio.

As the show progressed we were treated to Coat of Many Colours, Little Sparrow, Islands in the Stream, 9 to 5, and my personal favourite Here You Come Again.

Interest was maintained throughout with the variety of styles served up, spanning bluegrass, country and pop.

It was also fun to see Dolly playing all manner of instruments, from dulcimer to alto sax and more besides.

All in all a great night and when one loyal fan chose a quiet moment to shout “We love you Dolly” – it was obvious that pretty much everyone else in the LG Arena agreed with her.