Two down, one to go. Until Thursday. And I'm not feeling well. I threatened to get drunk and write the Billy Bob Thornton review late Saturday night, but neither of those things happened. I'm trying now, but with some very expired cherry NeoCitran instead of weird mango beer. Probably not as effective. And really, late Saturday night would have been the perfect time because I had been at a wedding and the DJ played Islands in the Stream and my cousin had the audacity to disparage the song. I threatened to fight him. That didn't happen either but it should have put me in the right mindset.
So yes, Dolly Parton. I bought tickets the instant they went on sale. I was going to tell you that I delayed a trip out of town in order to do it, but thinking back on it now, I realize that I just delayed a trip to drop the car off for service. That is less of a story, perhaps. Still shows commitment if you ask me.
But not too much commitment. We wound up with tickets in the second row, which is pretty fantastic, but we didn't get the super expensive front row tickets that came with a meet-and-greet. This was not due to any Weird Al-inspired life lesson (except insomuch as my every action is rooted in Al's teachings); rather, those tickets were bonkers expensive. As in, I'm pretty sure they were over $1,000 apiece. There were lesser VIP experiences as well (SIP experiences?), but we just got normal seats. Expensive normal seats, to be sure, but they felt downright sensible by comparison. Which is probably why they're there.
After work, we drove out to Moose Jaw for the show, listening to Brad Trost embarrass himself on an episode of Canadaland Commons. Two points for being upfront and honest about who he is; minus a million points for who he is. The other Conservative Party leadership candidate they interviewed, Michael Chong, came out looking like a million bucks by comparison. Chong should send Trost flowers. Or maybe some sort of Edible Arrangement; Trost would probably think flowers are too gay.
I gotta say, between this NeoCitran, my fuzzy robe, and 20-year-old Animaniacs fuzzy slippers, I'm feeling pretty good right now. Just opened up my new Jack White record. Got a Yahtzee dice duel going as I write this. Might evolve some Pokémon later. I'm earning more and more pity with each life-describing sentence. Things are okay. I mean, I used "fuzzy" twice in short order, so things could be better from a writing standpoint, but I'll blame this cold I'm fighting. And I think the use was justified in both cases. But I digress. I'm supposed to be talking about Dolly Parton or something.
We found Mosaic Place with no problem, thanks to my ill-fated trip to see Meat Loaf a few months back. We got there close to the start time, so we wound up parking pretty far away. By which I mean "a few blocks" - nothing is that far from anything else in downtown Moose Jaw. Despite a bit of a convoluted path upon entering the arena, we got to our seats with time to spare.
So about these seats. Very close. Great. But. This was like sitting in the middle seat in an airplane, except without the generous legroom. I have no pictures from the first half of the concert because moving my arms in any way was too disruptive to those around me. The arena just announced that Parton set an attendance record and I believe it. And I'm pretty sure they were all in my row.
Look, I get it. You need to sell tickets to make money. And pulling one chair from a long row won't make any difference in anyone's comfort level; you'd have to remove enough seats to result in a noticeable hit to the bottom line. And I am bigger than your average dude (though even the skinniest folks we saw were sitting shoulder to shoulder and sidebutt to sidebutt). So there probably isn't a good answer here. But after a great show (uh, spoiler, I guess), "man, those seats were uncomfortable" shouldn't be my #1 takeaway.
There was no opener. Dolly and her band took the stage and we were off. It turns out I know more Parton songs than I had thought. It also turns out that she has ridiculous stamina. Seriously, I thought they were wrapping up the show but it was only the end of the first half. She went about three hours, including the intermission. I find it hard to sit for that long. Amazing.
The show itself felt like what I imagine a Vegas show to be (the only Vegas show I've ever seen was hosted by a drag queen and involved topless underwater acrobats) (it was a pretty good show). You know what I mean - very professional but very rehearsed. Same set every night, same jokes every night. I lost count of the number of times Dolly said "But seriously..." Some of the lines were old enough that I knew them despite having never seen her perform live before - they've just been around forever. "It costs a lot to look this cheap," indeed.
None of this took away from the show. She knew what she was doing and the crowd ate it up. The woman sitting directly in front of us was a particular delight. I was pretty afraid she was going to rush the stage. At one point, security came over and had a little chat with her in what I assume was a preemptive measure.
I didn't save a setlist, but I found one from Toronto that looks to be identical. It's ridiculous how many great songs were on here. Hot take: Dolly Parton is real good, you guys. I mean, Jolene is a stone-cold classic that I assumed would close the show and it came five songs in. It was shortly after Why'd You Come In Here Lookin' Like That which it turns out I know super well? I can only assume my dad had this tape at some point. That song was stuck in my head for several days after the show and now it's back - good job, me - and I might have to go watch some Filet O'Fish ads on YouTube to dislodge it.
The first half also featured My Tennessee Mountain Home, Coat of Many Colours, I'll Fly Away, a curious medley of old hits like American Pie that had nothing to do with Dolly Parton, and Parton playing Yakety Sax on a wee tiny saxophone. The awe-inspiring nature of this visual encourages me to set aside my suspicion that maybe your fingers need to move sometimes when you're playing the saxophone.
Between sets, everyone around me complained about the tight seats. Then they all left to pee. Then the show started up again. For a few brief, glorious seconds, I enjoyed Parton's singing AND some shoulder room. I even got to snap a few pictures while she was singing what I believe to be Alicia Keys' Girl on Fire.
A photo posted by J. Underscore Kalyn (@j_kalyn) on
The second half was a little shorter than the first, which is to say it would still have been a reasonable length concert all by itself. She saved a number of hits to close out the show, playing Here You Come Again, Islands in the Stream, 9 to 5, and I Will Always Love You back to back (to back to back). People went ape for all these.
I often leave shows by... "more experienced" artists thinking "I wish I'd seen them back in the day." Not this time. Despite a not-very-noticeable case of the sniffles, at no point did I think the show would have been better 10 or 20 years ago. Her voice is solid as ever and she went for hours, alternating between belting out hits and telling stories and cracking corny one-liners. It's also worth noting that she plays a ton of instruments (I am not including the saxophone) and her band was great too.
If I could compare this to past shows I've seen, it would be like some ungodly hybrid of Loretta Lynn, Leonard Cohen, and Wayne Newton. And that analogy doesn't work at all and yet I think it does? Lady country singer, ridiculously ageless, kinda schmaltzy in a good way. You know what I mean. If not, blame the cold medicine.
Immediately after the show, the booming voice of some unseen announcer thanked us for coming - or at least, that's what I was expecting. Instead, he let us know that there'd been a big car accident and a bunch of people (presumably attending this show) had their cars towed away. I do not know how so many parked cars got quite so damaged in one accident. I would kind of like to know but I am also appreciative that I didn't have to find out the hard way so I shall just leave well enough alone.
And then I wanted to get a drink and some Doritos for the drive back but we didn't pass a gas station on the way out of town THE END
Here's that Toronto setlist I mentioned:
Hello, Dolly Train, Train Why'd You Come In Here Lookin' Like That Pure & Simple Jolene Precious Memories My Tennessee Mountain Home Coat Of Many Colors Smokey Mountain Memories Applejack Rocky Top/Yakety Sax Banks Of The Ohio Medley: American Pie/If I Had A Hammer/Blowin' In The Wind/Dust In The Wind/The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down The Seeker I'll Fly Away
Baby I'm Burning/Girl On Fire Better Get To Livin' Outside Your Door The Grass Is Blue Those Memories Of You Do I Ever Cross Your Mind Little Sparrow Two Doors Down Here You Come Again Islands In The Stream 9 To 5 I Will Always Love You Light Of A Clear Blue Morning
UPCOMING CONCERTS • Prozzäk (September 22) • Hayden (September 29) • Fred Eaglesmith w/Tif Ginn (October 1) • Basia Bulat w/Oh Pep! (October 5) • I Mother Earth featuring Edwin w/The Standstills (October 8) • BreakOutWest (October 14-16) • Sarah Slean with the Regina Symphony (October 22) • Bush w/The Dead Deads (October 27) • Steve Earle & The Dukes (November 3) • Bif Naked w/Jordan Alexander (November 8) • Duotang (December 2)
This has been some of the most interesting radio I've heard in a long time, being run from 88.5 WXPN out of Philadelphia/88.1 WXPH of Harrisburg (there's also Baltimore and Lehigh Valley relays for the station). Also online at www.xpn.