Dolly Parton, Evening News Arena, Manchester

Evening News Arena, Manchester

Perhaps if Dolly Parton had not become a country music legend, she would have been a stand-up comic. She explains how her Tennessee parents had 12 children by their early 30s by admitting: "My mum had one on her and one in her all the time." Breast reduction is dismissed because that would leave her "looking like Elton John". Moments later, she tells a roadie, "Don't break my hair, Steve" as Here You Come Again is accompanied by images of her younger self, when she looked older.

Now 62, resplendent in a dress possibly made from aluminium foil, she is part Kylie, part Dame Edna Everage. "If it sags or bags, I have it nipped, tucked or sucked," she explains. This is the camp icon that 15,000 people have donned pink stetsons and blonde wigs (the blokes, obviously) to see. However, Parton seems to be tiring of her pneumatic image, choosing songs (many from her new Backwoods Barbie album) that reveal the sensitive, easily hurt person behind the cartoon persona. Little Sparrow, where her voice soars to lambast cruel men, is stunning.

Playing piano, guitar and dulcimer, Parton juggles country, rock and disco and deliberately appears slightly out of touch, referring to "AC/DD, or whatever you call them" before unveiling a "hoe-down version" of Fine Young Cannibals' She Drives Me Crazy. Some of her one-liners are so old it is a wonder she needs an autocue to remember them, but a stomping 9 to 5 prompts the entire house to return the sentiment of I Will Always Love You.

· At Trent Arena, Nottingham, tomorrow. Box office: 0870 121 0123. Then touring.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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