Hello, Dolly!

Now that I’m living in the US, I have a chance to do things I haven’t done much during my years in Italy, such as go to concerts (other than classical; living in Milan, we had good access to classical music).

My dad took me to concerts fairly frequently during my childhood years in Pittsburgh. We saw Arlo Guthrie and Kris Kristofferson just about every year, and Frank Zappa once, just when "watch out where the huskies go…" was big on the radio. Concerts were a lot longer in those days, and I was young – I managed to fall asleep right in front of the speakers at Frank Zappa. To my chagrin, Dad always refused to take me to see the Rolling Stones – after Altamont, he was afraid of violence.

There are concerts in Italy, of course, but they’re mostly by Italian musicians whom I don’t care much about. The big American groups only come around every few years, and my taste rarely coincides with that of the Italian concert-going public. In other words: the musicians I’d like to hear rarely come to Italy (though Enrico did see Paul Simon just before he came on his current US visit). Enrico and I saw Jethro Tull ages ago in Milan, and David Byrne a bit more recently, then Alex Britti and Randy Newman.

I’m not in the habit of following concert schedules, but the day I did my Colorado driving test, I ate lunch in a little Nepali restaurant next door to the DMV, and picked up a local paper to read while I was eating. I happened to notice that Dolly Parton would be playing in Denver while Enrico was visiting, so I called him up and asked if he’d like to go. He’s mostly familiar with her from the movies 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, but that was enough to make him like the idea. And, for my first concert back in the US, you can’t get more all-American than Dolly!

The ticket gods love me: without particularly trying, I got seats in the center pit, four rows from the stage. For about $100 each, after taxes, fees, and parking. And Dolly gave us our money’s worth: two hours on stage, with a pretty damn big band.

I was interested to see that a good part of the audience was gay, both men and women. Upon reflection, this makes sense: Dolly was camp long before that term entered mainstream consciousness, and drag queens strive for precisely the Dolly look: spangly tight-fitting dresses, enormous wigs, enormous boobs, and enormous makeup – plus lots of jokes about it all. Her tag line is: "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap," and she was quick to repeat it onstage, as I knew she would be.

Sadly, Dolly herself is not looking so great these days; I think she’s had an overdose of "work" (cosmetic surgery). While she sang Here You Come Again, her big crossover hit of 1977, the screen behind showed pictures and video of her during that period, and I’ve got to say: she looked a lot healthier when she was rounder. Nowadays her cheeks are hollow and her legs like two sticks. Why is it that so many famous women seem to be anorexic these days? It’s not an attractive look.

It was also interesting that her encore number, Jesus & Gravity, went over like a lead balloon: previously-enthusiastic faces turn to stone (though there were a handful who clearly did love the song). Hmm. It appears there are more atheists in America than the politicians would have us believe.

One thought on “Hello, Dolly!”

  1. RE: Dolly’s lead balloon, I wouldn’t say it has to do with atheism. More like, many people (myself included) don’t care for the “Jesus people” to throw his name in our faces like they’re throwing us a bone and act like they’re having an 0rg@sm doing it. It’s irritating, insulting, and unnecessary, regardless of one’s belief system. I had a similar experience at a Shake Russell concert (country-folk crossover artist from the 70s). It was clear from the applause levels that the audience suffered through the religion-tinged numbers. We were not expecting them and had not come to hear that genre.

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