We all have that performer who owns a special place in our heart. For me, that is hands down, bet-her-sweet-bippy, Miss Dolly Parton. You see, we grew up in the same little east Tennessee mountain town, and she has been a big part of my life because of it. I was an official member of the Dolly Parton fan club. I remember the year "Dollywood" was born. I stood at the side of the road, waving my homemade love posters, as she rode by on a big fluffy float in the parade. I watched as her generosity to our community and beyond, solidified her not only as a star, but as an angel. And personally, her story and songs let me know it was ok to strive and long for other places, to have big dreams, and to do my best to go out there and get them.
Tonight, she walked out onto that stage, shimmied her sparkling white fringe, and giggled that unmistakable laugh. Immediately 9,999 people were in love. She started the show with "Why'd You Come in Here Lookin' Like That" as she made a sassy joke about her hunky cowboy guitar tech. By the third song, she was belting "Jolene" to the crowds delight.
The first hour was filled with these familiar favorites, mixed with a few new songs from the upcoming album "Pure and Simple". She took us on a journey back home, singing and telling stories of her childhood and her family. At some points, getting so personal, she even surprised herself. It was unquestionably special, and felt like sitting on the neighbors front porch. So much so, that I cried as she sang "Precious Memories" and "In My Tennessee Mountain Home". She told us jokes, made us laugh and danced around on stage better than a woman half her age. Playing a wide variety of instruments, she showed us what a spectacular and professional performer she really is.
She then transitioned, speaking of current world events, and ended the first half of the show with her band singing what they called the "American Pie Medley". (Consisting of snipets of "American Pie", "If I Had a Hammer", "Blowin' in the Wind", and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down".) As she sang the words "the answer my friend, is blowing in the wind..." bubbles from a fan filled the air, and the breeze picked up perfectly on queue. Just one of those magical Red Rocks moments.
After intermission, she fired back out on stage in a dazzling gold dress singing "Baby I'm Burning" and got the crowd right back into the show. She sang songs from the "Trio" album and performed an a capella version of "Little Sparrow" that was perfectly suited for the venue.
Wrapping up, we sang along to "Two Doors Down" and "Islands In The Stream" (no, Kenny did not show up...) finishing with "9 to 5" as confetti cannons burst around the amphitheater in a magical rain of laughter and dancing. Her encore was of course, the sweetest thank you of " I Will Always Love You" and a little bit of church and praising God. We all left knowing that we had experienced something special. A real moment with a sincerely loving, gracious woman.
Thirty years ago, 1400 miles from here, a six year old girl danced in her room, surrounded by pictures and posters of her hometown hero. Tonight, this grown woman danced under the wild west stars and eaves of Red Rocks, watching an icon put on the show of a lifetime. And it felt full circle amazing.