Rogers Place opens with back to back country shows

Dolly Parton performs at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta on Saturday, September 17, 2016. Ian Kucerak / Postmedia IAN KUCERAK KUCERAK, IAN / IAN KUCERAK/POSTMEDIA

No screens, flashy choreography or moving stages: Dolly Parton plays to packed house at Rogers Place

SANDRA SPEROUNES
More from Sandra Sperounes

Dolly Parton performs at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta on Saturday, September 17, 2016. Ian Kucerak / Postmedia IAN KUCERAK /  POSTMEDIA

 

Simply dollightful.

There’s no better way to describe Dolly Parton’s homespun show at Rogers Place on Saturday night.

No screens, flashy choreography or moving stages for this 70-year-old country and bluegrass legend — just her bubbly personality, exquisite one-of-a-kind pipes, rhinestone costumes, and sweet tales about home, love, and a naughty redhead who tried to take her man. (OK, so there was a little pyro and a crowd singalong during 9 to 5, which she performed just before a jaw-dropping rendition of I Will Always Love You at the end of her two-and-a-half hour show.)

Backed by a handful of musicians, simple white drapes and lights that glowed like patio lanterns or insects, Parton took the almost sold-out crowd on an in-depth journey through her six-decade career — from her very first composition, Little Tiny Tasseltop, to the title track off Pure & Simple, her 43rd and latest album.

While she almost always sounds like a little girl when she sings, she still boasts a voice of many colours — and a ridiculously powerful one at that. She sounded feisty on Train, Train, reverential on Coat of Many Colours, full of longing on the Banks of the Ohio, and desperate yet defiant on Jolene, her spinetingling classic about a not-so-pure woman with designs on Parton’s hubby.

“I’m glad you remember Jolene, I’ve been trying to forget her for 50 years,” she laughed. “I made a lot of money on that song. I can tell you now that I didn’t take a dime of it to the bank she worked at.”

Dolly Parton performs at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta on Saturday, September 17, 2016. Ian Kucerak / Postmedia IAN KUCERAK KUCERAK, IAN /  IAN KUCERAK/POSTMEDIA

Parton was full of sassy zingers and heartwarming stories about her childhood in the Smoky Mountains, her early days in Nashville, her marriage to Carl Dean, and one of her old friends from Edmonton, Bob Hunka, who used to manage her publishing company. Unlike some artists, who rush through their catalogue and can’t wait to get off stage so they can hit an afterparty, Parton took her time, savouring every memory and musical number. (She even misted up during Precious Memories, a sumptuous gospel number. )

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This wasn’t just a concert, this felt like one long hug — complete with a lot of laughs, a few tears and a sexy assistant, Steve.

He was Parton’s roadie — handing her an assortment of bedazzled instruments to play, including a guitar, a dulcimer, a violin, banjo and tiny saxophone. (And that was just during the first of two sets.) Golly, is there nothing this woman can’t do? I wouldn’t be surprised if she helps load out the gear and drives her tour bus from time to time.

Parton is the ultimate glittery Grandma — our favourite kick-ass relative with more energy, more stories, and more crazy clothes than any yung’uns in the crowd. And there were a bunch — from eight-year-olds in polka-dot dresses to squads of 20-year-olds in cowboy hats and glittery off-the-shoulder tops. Most of the crowd, however, were longtime Parton fans — those in their 40s and older, octogenarian couples, and silver-haired moms and daughters.

Sigh. We can only dream of being even a fraction as cool and spunky as Parton — at any age — and we can only hope she defies the laws of Father Time and lives another 70 years. We need our Dolly.

ssperounes@postmedia.com

Review

Dolly Parton

When: Saturday Sept. 17

Where: Rogers Place

'This is amazing!' Keith Urban on playing Rogers Place

SANDRA SPEROUNES
More from Sandra Sperounes

Published on: September 17, 2016 | Last Updated: September 17, 2016 12:32 PM MDT

Keith Urban performs at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. He and his band delivered a stellar set of tight and polished songs, says our reviewer. IAN KUCERAK / POSTMEDIA

“It’s so cool to be opening this night in this beautiful arena!” 

Such was Maren Morris’ assessment of Rogers Place during Friday’s first official concert in the $614-million arena. 

The up ’n’ coming Texas-bred singer was the night’s first act, one of two openers on Keith Urban’s ripCORD World Tour stop in Edmonton, featuring twangy drawls, strobe lights, knee-bending guitarists and high-energy tunes about cars, girls, beer and church.   

More than 18,000 fans poured into downtown’s silver saviour for a sold-out celebration of country-pop and civic history.

Maren Morris was one of two openers on Keith Urban’s ripCORD World Tour stop in Edmonton on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. IAN KUCERAK

“We’re very excited, we’ve been waiting a long time for this,” said Nena Minarchi, who was surveying the arena from her seats in Section 121, next to the stage, with her husband, Frank, and two sons, Alex and Tyler. 

“It’s phenomenal. It’s very open and we’re very impressed with it. I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the place.”  

“The cupholders are great,” added Frank. 

Up in the very last row of Section 208, Katie Johnson and her mom, Kim, weren’t quite as impressed. Their seats, which were at the top of a steep incline, didn’t have cupholders and didn’t feel as roomy as those in Rexall Place. 

 

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“The seats are a little squished,” said Kim.

“And there’s not enough legroom,” added Katie. “You’re going to totally hit the head of the person in front of you with your knees.” 

While they felt nearer to their neighbours, the two didn’t feel any closer to the stage.

“Now I really feel like I’m in the nosebleeds,” said Kim. 

“I think it was time for a new arena, though,” Katie mused. “If the city wanted to grow, we needed a world-class arena.” 

Forget about the size of the seats for a minute. Forget about the fact that Keith Urban didn’t seem all that excited to be christening a new arena when asked about it by a Vancouver journalist, then changed his tune once he got to Rogers Place.

“Look at this joint, it is amazing!” the country star gushed in a video on Twitter. “Absolutely off the charts, awesome cool. It’s beautiful! Absolutely beautiful!”  

No, the real pressing matter on everyone’s mind was: What does it sound like in Rogers Place?

“LOUD,” yelled Nena Minarchi (Section 121) as the night’s second opener, Dallas Smith, and his five-piece band played such country-rock numbers as Wasting Gas, Slow Rollin’ and Nothing But Summer.

“It’s phenomenal, a lot clearer than Rexall Place,” she shouted.  

“The sound is amazing,” said Lisa MacRae, who had been sitting in Section 208 with Katie and Kim Johnston. The three of them, along with the rest of their friends, ended up moving to a bunch of tall bar stools located behind their original squishy seats.

“These are way better. More roomy,” said MacRae. 

Fans cheer Dallas Smith, who charmed the crowd by slow-dancing with his Edmonton-bred wife, Kristen Jones, while he sang his latest single. IAN KUCERAK /  POSTMEDIA

Arenas aren’t particularly known for being acoustically astounding, but yes, Friday night’s show sounded pretty good — from the opening act to the headliners, from seats next to the stage to those in the nosebleeds. (Of course, it wasn’t nearly as loud or pristine the higher up you went.) The only real glitch? I don’t think Dallas Smith’s banjo player was actually plugged in during the first few songs of their set, but that’s the fault of a stage tech, not the arena.

Smith, not Maren Morris, really should’ve been the first opener to grace Rogers Place. While Morris was cute, friendly and boasted a strong voice, she had all the personality of a puck and wasted her opportunity to make a lasting impression. 

Smith, on the other hand, charmed the crowd by slow-dancing with his Edmonton-bred wife, Kristen Jones, while he sang Autograph, the latest single from his third album, Side Effects. She looked terrified at first, then quickly warmed up to her husband’s shenanigans. Awwwww. 

Not to be outdone, Keith Urban let one young fan, St. Albert’s Hailey Benedict, perform a song after he pulled her and a friend on stage because he liked their guitar-shaped signs. Double awwwww.

The Australian headliner and his band delivered a stellar set of tight and polished songs — including Blue Ain’t Your Colour, Kiss A Girl, We Were Us (with Morris) and Cop Car — in front of a huge screen and banks of ever-changing lights. He later moved to a small stage at the back of the venue for a handful of numbers, showing off his guitar ferocity and humble roots in the process. 

Urban might not be much of a sports fan, but he did sound genuinely excited to perform in Rogers Place.

“Edmonton, first night in this seriously kick-ass house of Oilers,” he gushed. “This is amazing!”