By Chris M. Junior
She’s written a lot of well-known material during her accomplished and acclaimed recording career, which spans almost 50 years. Along the way, Dolly Parton has also accumulated a seemingly endless supply of stories and anecdotes.
Throughout Parton’s June 26 concert at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., the sparkling country and pop music star — on her first major tour of the United States and Canada in 25 years — talked way more than she sang. That would be a problem for someone lacking her charm, energy and sense of humor, but as for Parton, at no point did she fail to entertain, nor did the pace of the show suffer.
With no opening act, Parton had plenty of time to work in lots of well-polished tales, memories and one-liners as well as more than 20 songs in a concert that began after 8 p.m., included a 20-minute intermission between sets and wrapped up before 11 p.m. Highlights in the first half included “Jolene,” a 1974 single that became her second solo song to hit No. 1 on the country singles chart, and “Pure & Simple,” one of the new songs on a two-disc set featuring fresh recordings and greatest hits that’s due in August.
Parton and her three-piece band were at their best when they sang a cappella, in turn illustrating the church upbringing she referenced in her talks by performing moving versions of the much-covered “Precious Memories” and the Parton-penned “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind.”
During the second half of the show, there was a lot less between-song talking, and as the night was winding down, Parton leaned hard on some of her biggest crossover hits, playing “Here You Come Again,” “Islands in the Stream” and “9 to 5” in rapid succession.
Parton will close out the first leg of her latest tour on June 28 at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, then begin the second leg on July 19 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.