Dolly Parton at Glastonbury 2014 review

Dolly Parton rewarded Glastonbury with a performance that surely calls for a redefinition of the word "crowdpleaser"

See all our Glastonbury 2014 coverage here

Where and when: Pyramid stage, 4.20pm Sunday

Dress code: Rhinestones, more rhinestones, and an extra sprinkling of rhinestones.

What happened: Converting an entire festival full of sinners is a thankless task, particularly on the final day of debauchery, but if anyone could bring Glastonbury-goers to the light with a well-timed “can I get an amen?”, it was Dolly Parton. It felt as if every single one of the event’s 200,000 attendees had squeezed into the Pyramid arena to see the queen of country, and she rewarded them with a performance that surely calls for a redefinition of the word "crowdpleaser". In a white, rhinestone-studded trouser suit (was that a glittery sporran at the front?), she strutted across every inch of the stage, cheering, hollering and clapping, leading the enraptured audience of more than a few impersonators through a solid hour of clap-alongs and sing-alongs.

It was, of course, completely ridiculous. Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora turned up to noodle over a gospel version of Lay Your Hands on Me. Parton invented a song for Glastonbury especially, rapping about the mud – “we won’t let it ruin our high” – as the arena chanted “mud, mud, mud” with a surprisingly musical ear right back at her. Parton must be the only performer in the world who can pull that off. However, topping even those moments for sheer absurdity was a hoedown that began with her playing the banjo, which she then swapped for a fiddle – which she in turn exchanged for a rhinestone-studded saxophone, using that to play the Benny Hill theme tune not once, but twice (her band challenged her to "play it backwards", which she did, by turning her back to the crowd). “I know it was corny, but it was fun,” she hollered, capping the whole spectacle off with a yodel.

Parton’s stage banter, which is as much of a draw as the music, lived up to its reputation. There were bawdy vaudeville puns about “bad sax” and “safe singin’”, a rewriting of the Jolene history that offered her husband up to the hussy, since he’s getting a little grey behind the ears, and the old yarn about her modelling her look on “the town tramp, or whatever you call it”, which was no less fun for its familiarity. In fact, she was so wonderfully entertaining that when the big screen cut out for a mere fraction of a second, the entire arena gasped, as if to say: "Don’t you dare take her away from us."

But it wasn’t all sublimely preposterous. As the sun briefly glistened on that infamous peroxide wig, there were moments of incredible beauty. Jolene – that bleak plea to the other woman and the reason for countless karaoke downfalls – saw the crowd gamely straining to join in. Coat of Many Colors and closer I Will Always Love You were simply, plainly delightful, while the upbeat classics – Baby I’m Burning (naturally, Parton’s gun fingers accompanied the “hot like a pistol” line) and 9 to 5 in particular – inspired sheer joy.

But really, this was for and about the crowd. She did, after all, write us our own song. And as she coyly wondered aloud for the umpteenth time if we could possibly know the words to this or that stone-cold classic, it didn’t matter that she had said it before. Dolly Parton had 200,000 people in the palm of her manicured, rhinestone-studded hand. She said it best herself: it was corny, but it was fun.

High point: Islands in the Stream got everyone swaying as one, and today’s Kenny Rogers substitute, "Richard", had more than enough gruff country beard to go around.

Low point: Don’t be ridiculous.

In a tweet: Long live the queen of country.


Rebecca Nicholson

The GuardianTramp

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