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Written by Lisa Wilkerson
I was thrilled and honored to attend Dolly Parton’s Pure & Simple show at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, AL, on November 16, 2016. To say I’m a Dolly Parton fan is like saying Peyton Manning enjoys football and Papa John’s pizza, a greater understatement has never been uttered. I’ve seen Dolly several times in various locations but looked forward to experiencing this particular tour, her first major North American run in over 25 years.
This was my first visit to the Von Braun Center similar in size and layout to Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium. Nearby parking was reasonably priced, the staff was friendly and the venue was clean. I was seated floor level in front of the soundboard just a few rows from the back of the arena.
Blessedly, sound quality was excellent (besides a thunderous bass drum that caused heart palpitations) because I relied on my ears rather than my eyes most of the night. To put it mildly, the view was obstructed. There were no video screens or risers to enhance the floor experience. Every seat was at the same level. My 5-foot-8 frame usually doesn’t have a problem in such situations but even I struggled to see. A majority of the evening was spent contorting around heads and cell phone cameras. When I finally caught a glimpse of Dolly, she looked like a tiny white candle 100 yards away. That country candle sure did shine, though; in her words, “I never leave a rhinestone unturned.”
Dolly is an entertainer. From her look to her quips, she always amuses. She put on a nearly three-hour performance (no opening act) that included an intermission/wardrobe change. The multi-instrumentalist dabbled on guitar, banjo, fiddle, dulcimer, flute, piano, and (jokingly) saxophone; playing well-known hits, numbers from her gospel, bluegrass, Trio albums, her new #1 release Pure & Simple and a half dozen covers of Bob Dylan, Jerry Lee Lewis, Alicia Keys and others.
With over five decades in the music industry and three-thousand songs written, Dolly doesn’t need to cover other people’s tunes in concert. People come for the hits, her hits. With 106 singles, 55 Top 10s, and 25 #1s, she has more than enough material to mix up the set list every night; she doesn’t have to look elsewhere. “Love Is Like A Butterfly”, “The Bargain Store”, “Rockin’ Years”, “Joshua”, “All I Can Do”, “You’re The Only One”, “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right”, “Heartbreaker”, “Tennessee Homesick Blues”, “Old Flames Can’t Hold A Candle to You”, “Staring Over Again”, “But You Know I Love You”, and “Heartbreak Express” would’ve been welcomed inclusions over her cover choices.
It would’ve benefited her to play up on the Pure & Simple name by designing a pure and simple show. Forego the out-of-her-element smoke machine, pyrotechnics, light show, and electronic tracks for the more natural setting of the front porch of her Tennessee Mountain Home. Strip down the production. Dolly excels when she is accompanied by sparse string instruments and/or a capella harmony. “Those Memories of You” and “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” were done this way and received some of the biggest reactions from the crowd.
I challenge her to conduct an arena concert like a writer’s show at The Bluebird Café. The audience wants to hear her stories. She broke off script a few times to talk about her childhood, life on the farm, and how specific songs were composed; the crowd adored these glimpses into her personal life. People love Dolly—it’s not about wild stage productions with her—they care about authenticity and going away knowing her better than they did when they arrived.
This show gets a Concert Blast rating of 8.5 out of 10. Deductions for too many covers and an awkward attempt at rock-like production elements.
Written by Lisa Wilkerson
INTRO: Hello Dolly
Why’d You Come in Here Lookin’ Like That
Pure & Simple
Precious Memories (John Wright cover)
My Tennessee Mountain Home
Coat of Many Colors
Smokey Mountain Memories
Rocky Top/Yakety Sax
Banks of the Ohio ([traditional] cover)
American Pie / If I Had a Hammer / Blowin’ in the Wind / Dust in the Wind / The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
I’ll Fly Away ([traditional] cover)
Baby I’m Burnin’ / Great Balls of Fire / Girl on Fire
Outside Your Door
The Grass Is Blue
Those Memories of You (Alan O’Bryant cover)
Do I Ever Cross Your Mind
Little Sparrow / If I Had Wings
Two Doors Down
Here You Come Again
Islands in the Stream
9 to 5
I Will Always Love You
Posted on 5/31/2016
Concert Blast has attended and reported on several Music Festivals over the years; Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis, TN, Bonnaroo in Manchester, TN, Big Spring Jam in Huntsville, AL, and the CMA Music Festival in Nashville, TN. Although we haven’t produced a podcast/blog in nearly a year, the CMA Music Festival paid homage to Concert Blast by inviting Mike Arnold and Will Perry to be a part of the media to report on the huge festival in downtown Nashville, TN through photos and short videos on FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, and concertblast.com . Mike and Will were very surprised by the invitation and plan to attend several of the concerts and events. Since there are only two covering the festival, they have learned that they can’t do it all, so they will be selective on what to attend and what to cover.
Maggie Rose - Live at CMA Music Fest
“In the past we wanted to cover as many concerts and interview as many artists as we could, but it wiped out our energy. We refuse to let that happen again so we will be very particular on who to cover.” said Concert Blast creator, Mike Arnold. Will and Mike will be covering their favorites at the smaller stages, Chris Janson, Maggie Rose, Chris Carmack, and others. Mike Arnold mentioned, “Our favorite place to cover the event is in the small venue, HGTV Barn, where top artists from various genres perform to a small crown of a couple of hundred. There we covered Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, Goo Goo Dolls, Kristen Bush, Charles Esten, and many others.“ Mike and Will will definitely plan to be at the stadium concerts each night. ”During the stadium shows we always run into Concert Blast fans, artists, and songwriters that we very seldom get to speak with.”
Concert Blast decided to slowly put on the brakes of podcasts and blogs due to their schedules being so hectic. Brian Hasbrook began traveling daily on his consulting career, Tom Thompson got married and turned his focus to his family, while Mike Arnold turned his extra time focusing on performing, writing, and recording with his Nashville Rock & Roll Party band, Mike Arnold & the Music City Rockers. Mike adds, “With Brian and Tom out of the picture and others continue to ask me when and where was my band performing next, instead of what is the our next podcast/blog will be on, I decided it was time to shift gears and record an album and get other media to be writing on me!” Be looking for Mike Arnold and Will Perry as they cover the CMA Music Fest 2016!
Devour The Day In Concert - Nashville, TN - 7/13/2015
It was time to make another trip to the standing room only Cannery Ballroom in Nashville, TN. Concert Blast was invited to cover Devour The Day (consisting of Blake Allison, Joey “Chicago” Walser, and two other touring musicians) about a month before the date and since Brian Hasbrook and Tom Thompson were already booked, Mike Arnold headed downtown with friend Allen Atkinson (to help with the photography). Taking photos at the Cannery is extremely difficult since there is not a photo pit and the crowd is elbow to elbow with lots of pushing… especially at this hard rock show! Continue reading about the night with Devour The Day written by Mike Arnold.
Canadian rockers Nickelback returned to Nashville, TN to perform another show at the award winning Bridgestone Arena on Monday March 30th with opening act Pop Evil. Concert Blast co-host/partner, Tom Thompson, was on hand to review one of his favorite bands from this century. The last time Tom reviewed Nickelback was a podcast years ago in Huntsville, AL. Continue to read Tom’s concert review.
Posted on 10/5/2014
Ian Anderson and tour band 2014
Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson returned to Nashville, TN to play the historic Ryman Auditorium for the second straight year. This year Concert Blast was invited to review the concert so Mike Arnold and Brian Hasbrook headed downtown Nashville, TN to review one of Brian’s all time favorite performers, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. Since photo passes weren’t being issued for this tour, Brian got to enjoy this show while Mike took the notes for the concert review. Enjoy the review!
Journey (Arnel Pineda) In Concert - Nashville, TN 9/12/2014
Journey returned their rock show to Nashville, TN to thrill about 14,000 rock music fans at the Bridgestone Arena on September 12th, 2014 and Concert Blast was invited to cover the party. Nashville, TN seems to always be included on a Journey tour anytime they head to the eastern side of the country. After seeing them perform here several times, I understand the reason … lots of Journey fans! If that is not reason enough, then maybe because keyboardist/guitarist Jonathan Cain also lives in this Music City. Enjoy the Journey concert review with very special guests Joan Jett and the Blackhearts written by Mike Arnold.
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Concert Blast California Friends - 2014 CMA Music Festival
Posted on 9/11/2014
It was Sunday, the last day/night of the 2014 CMA Music Festival and Concert Blast was there to cover the fun. The acts on this last night consisted of Charlie Daniels Band, Thomas Rhett, Lady Antebellum, Hunter Hayes, Zac Brown Band, and Brad Paisley. Also included in this podcast are two quick conversations with Concert Blast fans. Enjoy the podcast with Mike Arnold, Tom Thompson, and Will Perry.
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Posted on 8/5/2014
Riverfront Park - 2014 CMA Music Festival
It was officially day three of the 2014 CMA Music Festival in Nashville, TN. Mike Arnold, Tom Thompson, and Will Perry continued with the concert coverage. Day three lasted about 15 hours and this was after two prior long days! Yes, we were tired but excited to cover more concerts. On this day we started at the packed Riverfront Park to cover LoCash Cowboys, went to the Bridgestone Arena plaza for Chuck Wicks, strolled over to the HGTV sponsored barn to see an invitation only solo performance of Sugarland’s Kristian Bush, and then completed the daytime shows back at Riverfront Park to see one of our favorite up and coming artists, Maggie Rose. After a dinner and a hour rain delay, we headed over to the stadium to catch Sara Evans, Little Big Town, Darius Rucker, Florida Georgia Line, and closed the night with Keith Urban. Enjoy the podcast and written blog review by Mike Arnold.
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Posted on 7/14/2014
2014 CMA Music Festival - Tom Thompson with Fans
As the Concert Blast coverage of the 2014 CMA Music Festival continues, this podcast is focused on the activities from Friday. Mike Arnold and Tom Thompson headed downtown for the first act of the day, which was Craig Morgan on the Riverfront Park stage at 10am! Later in the day helper Will Perry joined in. The coverage ended as Blake Shelton said goodnight from the Stadium stage at 12:30am. That’s over 14 hours of walking, waiting, talking, and snapping pics of many artists, fans, and others. Friday’s coverage included (in order); Craig Morgan, Will Hoge, Holly Tucker (contestant from The Voice), Trace “the rib-whisperer” Arnold (not in the podcast), Mike Wolfe (from American Pickers), Hunter Hayes (surprise acoustic show). Then they covered the stadium concerts of (in order); Travis Tritt, Eric Church, The Band Perry, Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, and Blake Shelton. What an exhausting day and night, but with a lot of fun! Enjoy listening to the 262nd audio podcast and/or reading the blog written by Mike Arnold.
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Posted on 7/4/2014
2014 CMA Music Festival - Thursday
The 2014 CMA Music Festival put another shot in the arm of the Nashville, TN economy and Mike Arnold, Tom Thompson, and Will Perry (substituting for Brian Hasbrook) of Concert Blast was there to cover as many events as they could. There were so many concerts and other events that no one person could attend, not even the three of us. This is the first of many podcasts from this festival. Enjoy the Thursday night stadium show coverage with plenty of live clips and fun with the attendees. Concerts covered were (in order); Alabama, Luke Bryan, Brantley Gilbert, Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, and headliner Tim McGraw. Also interview fun with country music newcomer Jenny Casey and Concert Blast fans… Enjoy the listening or the reading of Mike Arnold’s blog… or both!