Maybe it was appropriate that Dolly Parton and her “Vintage” tour hit Alltel Arena in North Little Rock less than a week after 10 U.S. Marines were killed in a single day in a bombing in Iraq.
Hearing her perform songs originally sung against the backdrop of the war in Vietnam in the 1960s and ’70s proved to be more than just a little haunting as we deal with another increasingly unpopular war. Folk-rock classics like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and John Lennon’s “Imagine” haven’t lost their edge.
Parton presented those and songs off her latest album, “Those Were the Days,” in a non-preachy but thoughtful way last week while also mixing in some of her best-loved hits. Not just anyone could move from those songs immediately to the bouncy “Here You Come Again” and “Two Doors Down,” but Parton –- her wise crackin’, storytellin’, easy stage presence intact –- made it work.
“I’m just out doing the ‘Vintage’ tour singing some hippie songs,” she said in her ever-cheerful voice while showcasing her instrumental talents on everything from a guitar and fiddle to banjo, harmonica and dulcimer. Other favorites on this musical tour included “I Will Always Love You,” which, of course, brought the crowd of 3,542 fans to its feet, the touching “Coat of Many Colors,” and her cover of “Me and Bobby McGee.”
The Grascals, a six-piece bluegrass and country band, successfully opened the show with its self-described “hard-driving fun music,” which ranged from the bluegrass hit “Me and John and Paul” to hand-clappin’ covers of “Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms” and “White Lightning.”