Concert review: The case for the Dolly Parton residency

Dolly Parton in Primm, January 25.
Photo: Yasmina Chavez

Three and a half stars

Dolly Parton January 25, Star of the Desert Arena

If Dolly Parton wasn’t so attached to her native Tennessee, or busy managing an entertainment empire that could shame Jay Z, or launching an ambitious world tour—as she did the night before Saturday night’s concert at Primm’s Star of the Desert Arena—she would be the best candidate for the next Vegas resident act.

Her show was well-endowed with the necessary elements for a showroom extravaganza: the perfect curation of hits, signature deep(er) cuts, medleys and covers; the sort of personal and songwriting anecdotes that elevated Garth Brooks’ Wynn shows; quips and one-liners only the performer could give; one of the most irresistible personalities in music; and, of course, ample wigs and rhinestones.

The 68-year-old Parton pulled it all off effortlessly, and for more than two (intermission-divided) hours. That’s not to say she wasn’t well-supported. For one, she was backed by a versatile 10-piece band that includes backup singers. And her monitor/sound system allowed her vocal levels to rise and fall like the Desperado roller coaster a few feet away, which explained why our ears rang after the a capella Appalachian folk ballad “Little Sparrow,” one of the night’s showstoppers.

And it appeared that the woman who once said, “I may look phony, but I’m not phony,” occasionally lip-synced and mimed some of her instrumental performances. Parton has copped to both in the past, and we might make certain allowances given her age. But if we’re going to knock Britney Spears for similar transgressions, it’s only fair to question Dolly’s apparent vocal discrepancies, especially with tickets reaching $100.

But, like Spears’ defensive fanbase, the loyal Parton-age—which on Saturday was split between those who would attend a gay pride parade and those who would be their grandparents—might say it favors entertainer Dolly over technical-musician Dolly. And on Saturday night, the former seduced the crowd like the flirty-but-churchgoing girl next door. Which she could do nightly, if she ever decamped to the Strip.

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