Show Review + Setlist: Dolly Parton at the Fox Theater, St. Louis, Thursday, August 14

Dolly Parton charmed a sundry crowd when she stopped by the Fox Theater as part of her "Backwoods Barbie" tour last night: Salt-of-the earth older couples mingled with the occasional tattooed rockabilly woman and flashy, western-geared men -- including, to our delight, one whose cornflower blue silk vest strained against tan bare shoulders and, near the front, a portly older gentleman wearing a creamy suit studded with silver rhinestones. It wasn’t difficult to imagine these folks making a long trek from any number of small Missouri towns for the chance to bask in her familiar legend, and it occurred to me a little haphazardly that Dolly’s specific appeal in St. Louis may be the respite she offers otherwise staunchly Midwestern practicalities.

Slide Show

An eleven-member band started the set, and when Dolly appeared like a glittering marionette in a flourish of purple and silver sequins for “Two Doors Down,” the crowd stood for a rollicking start. Never having seen her live, I was struck by the surreal familiarity of her movements -- the snappy chin jerks, head tilts, and manic bounces she uses to traverse the stage. Interviewers frequently express surprise about her height, something she later mentioned as preface to “I’m Little but I’m Loud” (she’s only 5’ 2", but looms so large on television and stage that her petite height can be startling in person). Even then, I was still surprised by her itty-bitty legs; they jutted out from her skirt like spindles.

Also fantastic was the ease with which she transitioned from such seemingly different instruments -- all of which were white and covered in rhinestones. For “Thank God I’m a Country Girl,” she flew through fiddle, banjo, and harmonica, all feverishly supplied by her “useful and ornamental” hick Chippendale (Steve Summers) who dosey-doed in shirtless abandon in overalls nearby.

Slide Show

My first half favorite might have been her Fine Young Cannibals cover “Drive Me Crazy," which was inspired by the sounds of rock emanating from husband Carl Dean’s favorite station on the radio. “I never like to leave a rhinestone unturned,” she sinuously demurred, referring to the rock genre she’d ladled in with the rest of her Backwoods Barbie album's unlikely (and ideal) combination of country and pop.

And I still teared up for the bipolar mood switch Dolly flipped with “Coat of Many Colors,” which she introduced by describing the wealth of love she found in her family amidst the poverty of her childhood, a fast-track trajectory to our own small-town childhoods that she dedicated “to her mother in heaven.” The gospel medley culminating the first half of her show before intermission was also a treat, the stuff of scattered eight tracks in my grandparents' garage.

I was keyed up for Dolly’s second half of the show, the one reviewers have unanimously been yammering about, and our expectations were met with the cracking resonance of a fast high five. Dolly’s costume-switch to a black and silver ensemble vaguely reminiscent of a sparkling tuxedo was perfect for the poppier second half and “Better Get to Livin,” which Dolly wrote for Transamerica [ed. note: No, for Barbie; "Travelin' Thru" is the movie song] -- clips of which appeared behind her on stage -- was upbeat. “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind,” pretty accurately represented here, featured her full band, including one of her brothers and a first cousin, singing a crisp a cappella. This was followed by another a cappella track, a slow-tempo version of “Little Sparrow,” that essentially purged and damned us; the crowd quietly hung by the silver thread of her voice and the cold, lonely glow of those lyrics.

Slide Show

Then came the Dolly that our generation went way back with, including a track that my cousins and I eagerly stuffed into tape decks on road trips anywhere (everywhere) together, “Islands in the Stream.” When Dolly promises that “this could be the year for the real thing,” it still seems somehow possible, and that’s Dolly magic for when you’re slowly losing sight of it.

This was followed, of course, by the zinger “9 to 5,” the same title of a Broadway musical that Dolly has in the works for next yearat the Marriott Marquis theater. Keeping in tradition, she finished with “I Will Always Love You,” a song she wrote for Porter Wagoner, which would bring him to tears decades later at the Grand Ole Opry. The man standing next to me assured me her encore would be “Jesus and Gravity,” and it was, concluding a long evening of gloriously met expectations.

Set list for first half of Backwoods Barbie:

"Two Doors Down"
"Why’d You Come In Here Lookin’ Like That"
"Thank God I’m a Country Girl"
"I’m Little But I’m Loud"
"Backwoods Barbie"
"Drives Me Crazy"
"Shattered Image"
"Coat of Many Colors"
"Only Dreamin’"
Gospel Medley: Brother Love’s Travelin’, Salvation Show, I’ll Fly Away, When the Saints Go Marching In, Old Time Religion, Brother Love’s Travelin’ (repeat)

Set list for second half:

"Baby, I’m Burning"
"Better Get to Livin’"
"Do I Ever Cross Your Mind"
"Little Sparrow"
"Here You Come Again"
"Islands in the Stream"
"9 to 5"
"I Will Always Love You"

"Jesus and Gravity"

-- Kristy Wendt

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Teresa Stegall(From the SMALL
Teresa Stegall(From the SMALL

WOW!!! What a Great Show. The take on the mixture of people who showed up for this performance is right on the money. The one who I remember the most was the man who thought nothing of wearing his bib-overalls to the FOX.But Dolly would not have cared if you showed up in bibs of a Tux, she sang her heart out for ever one just the same. Dolly will always be the best of the best in my book!!!!


"Better Get to Living" was not from Transamerica. That song is "Travelin' Thru"..."Better Get to Living" is from her new album BACKWOODS BARBIE.


DOLLY was Amazing. What an entertainer. I was so Floored by her show. It was the first time I have ever seen her.Totally AWesomethank you so much!!!

Charlie Mueller
Charlie Mueller

The song "Better Get To Livin'" was written specifically for her new album "Backwoods Barbie" and that was the music video that came out this spring and premiered on CMT. The song she wrote for "Transamerica" is called "Travelin' Thru" which she did not play at the concert. She was nominated for an Oscar in 2006 for this song (which was the only song she wrote for the film).


Dolly is one of the greatest hotties of the world. At age 62 she still looks better than a lot of those so-called supermodels. I'd say it's way overdue that she showed those 34E's aka "The Best Boobs in the Bizz" to the world, so c'mon Dolly pose nude in the near future and don't wait until y'er 100-th birthday or at least have the pictures that have been taken in the past published!!

Kristy Wendt
Kristy Wendt

@ Rob: Good point about Dolly banter, which was well-received by the audience and an important part of the show that I didn't cover in much detail and yes, that's the music video for "Better Get to Livin'," which consists of clips from Transamerica.

@ Nick: You were fabulous, and not just because Dolly says so and she's God.


IT was ME! I was wearing the silver and white rhinestone suit in the front row! Hahaha I got some great looks :D But really I'm glad everyone enjoyed it. But I nearly died after she saw me and gestured that she liked the suit and I flashed her the "hi" that was sewn in the inside, and then she said Hi back! THEN Dedicated 9 to 5 to me!!!!! I nearly fell over!


Jaime sent me some of that material she said about Lohan & Spears and "Foreign Affairs" before the show, I hadn't realized that was something she was saying during shows on the tour. Still, a hilarious lady. I laughed when I read it, and again when I heard it aloud. I also liked (in response to someone yelling "I love you Dolly!" from the audience) "I love you too, but I told you to wait out in the truck."

Also, wasn't that just the "Better Get To Livin'" music video showing behind her while she played it?

Pan pipes! Holy cow, Dolly rocks the pan pipes, my God. Really I had no idea she was such an accomplished multi-instrumentalist.

Dolly owns every last one of you human beings. I saw a pretty hot glittery "Dolly" raglan with an old picture of her and an embellished script of her name.


one of my fav chicks ever, nina persson from the cardigans, did an amazing version of 'why'd you come in here"

available here:

i think it's especially impressive cause she's all euro and whatnot.

Annie Zaleski
Annie Zaleski

agreed, Rob. Dolly was hysterical... my favorite part was after "Jolene," when she told a story about how the night before in Detroit, there were these two drag queens dressed like her in the front. she said she kept getting distracted by them, and that her (male) bandmates didn't know *what* to think. so she started singing "drag queen, drag queen, drag queen..." to the tune of "Jolene," just to mess with them. ha ha ha.

anyway, the show was fantastic. it was just what i expected, but also not, since i wasn't really sure what to expect.

*i totally cried during "coat of many colors" too, because i thought of how my mom and grandmother used to sew me skirts and such when i was little.

*"little sparrow" was downright spellbinding. she sang most of it a cappella, with a few backup harmonies from her female singers, a bit of ambient synth, and that's it. it was chilling and gorgeous. i also cried.

*"Islands in the Stream" was totally fun. i danced.

*this was a show where the newer songs didn't feel out of place with older material -- and was actually welcome. i wasn't restless or annoyed when she did play new songs.

*The crowd was so, so, so respectful. it was wonderful to see. gallant, even; i had a stranger offer me an arm on the way out, in case i needed it!

*the man with the suit in the front with the cactus on the back wins for best shirt. runner-up was the man in the black shirt with embroidered roses on it.

i had a perma-smile the entire show. it was terrific.


Dolly (should, and) could easily tour with a mostly stand-up act, punctuated with a song here and there. I'd go see it.

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