The adorable and inimitable Dolly Parton played an outstanding set at the S.B. Bowl on one very hot Sunday, and her amiable storytelling and soothing voice were a much-welcome cooldown for all in attendance. Starting with an ambling, narrative-driven first set and concluding with a tighter second set, Parton occupied the stage for a good two and a half hours, demonstrating her seemingly indestructible showmanship in all its age defiance.
Parton made many references of her being “unreal” — from her plastic surgery to her glittering wig to the drummer she ousted when he suggested she strip her image down. And certainly the evening had the level of polished entertainment professionalism so well-oiled as to be like a Disneyland ride, impenetrable in its presentation. She was funny, and she was skilled — she flirted with a cowboy stagehand and played everything from piano and banjo to hammer dulcimer and Autoharp. But when her voice cut through the air on songs such as “Precious Memories,” “Little Sparrow,” “Banks of the Ohio,” and, of course, “Coat of Many Colors,” it was real enough to draw tears. At age 70, she is still one of the most moving and powerfully voiced singers this reviewer has ever heard.