Saturday, August 20, 2005

Dolly Parton almost ruined my anniversary...

On Thursday night, we went into the city in celebration of my birthday/our anniversary. Jess took me to a fabulous dinner at Le Bernardin.

We had a wonderful three-course meal followed by a spectacular dessert. I started with a sampler of four different ceviches made with fluke. They were presented in small square dishes all laid out neatly in a diagonal line across a rectangular plate. "The chef recommends you begin here and move in this direction," the server pointed out as he presented the plate. The chef was right on target. Each presented different tastes and the complexity of the flavors escalated as I moved from one type to the next.

Then second course was soft-shell crab served on jumbo lump crabmeat, in a Brazilian muqueca sauce with lime, coconut, and dende oil. The flavors were so subtle and well-melded that you really didn't necessarily taste any of them individually; but the resulting mix was amazing.

The entrée was baked snapper in a spicy-sour Puerto Rican Sancocho broth, served with sweet potato, plantain and avocado. Again, a stellar dish.

All this was acommpanied by some of the most wonderful raisin bread I have ever tasted. The service was impeccable and intuitive. We didn't have to ask for anything.

And then dessert, a creation called "Chocolate Cashew", was a tart of dark chocolate, cashew and caramel. The plate was dotted lightly with a red wine reduction and several slices of banana that had been sugared and then caramelized with a flame, and alongside was a malted rum milk chocolate ice cream.

Okay, okay, enough about dinner. You came for the Dolly Parton headline, no doubt.

Following dinner, we walked around the corner to Radio City Music Hall, where Dolly Parton was playing. Our friend Jeff had told us about the concert a couple of months back, and we thought that it sounded like a fun evening. Jess added the Le Bernardin stop on the day of the show.

At any rate, the show started off with a bluegrass act called The Grascals. Being from the Midwest and the South, I have heard a number of bluegrass groups in my time. I was disappointed in these guys. The vocals, while okay, weren't that extraordinary, and I have difficulty understanding how they have been nominated for 13 IBMA awards, but they have. They played a 45-minute set that I sat and gritted my teeth through most of. I didn't feel they were worthy to open for Dolly Parton.

After an annoyingly-lengthy 30-minute intermission between the opening act and the show, the lights went down...but the special curtain developed for the show didn't. And that was a harbinger for the evening. Dolly took the stage and sang "Those Were the Days" which was okay, but low key. While her voice still sounded as clean and clear as ever, the tempo of the performance was disappointingly slow, never really getting off the ground. I had been so excited about seeing her, but the show felt like it needed a shot of Geritol. To top things off, it was more than a little annoying that she commercialized the show by talking about her new CD a number of times between songs, encouraging the audience to go out and buy it because she "needed the money." And of course, there was also a bit on why we should visit Dollywood. Y'know what? Unless they have been living under a rock, most of Dolly's fans know about Dollywood, and most of them don't need five or more promptings to buy a new CD. I found it tactless.

The stage set was lovely, with Dolly's "signature" as the centerpiece, lit up with LED lights that dimmed and even raced during some numbers. But on the second night of a tour, I'd expect ALL the lights to be working - I don't think that would be too much to ask. But they weren't. And it was an annoyance.

She did a number of songs that were pretty, but her backup vocalists weren't up to the challenge. I expect a roadshow to sound not quite as good as a studio-produced CD, but I had to wonder if she picked up these singers the night before she left Nashville to go on the road. They were out of pitch on several songs and it was just annoying ("Little Sparrow" was particularly hard to listen to).

When she sang 9 to 5, the audience was singing along, and so she asked us to sing at the end of the song. The audience sounded quite good! Better than her backup singers!

While I enjoyed her covers of "Turn, Turn, Turn", and "Me and My Bobby McGee", again her backup singers weren't up to them. The show wasn't over when we left; we couldn't stay for the whole thing because it dragged out too long. And it did drag. We missed about four numbers. I was sorry that I missed "Hello God" followed "He's Alive," but Jeff said they were pretty spectacular. We went home tired and somewhat unsatisfied.

Later I talked with this one who thought Jess and I were crazy for thinking the show wasn't that good. Okay, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Even if it's wrong. :P

Now I said Dolly almost ruined the anniversary...but the dinner was wonderful as was the company, so it wasn't a strikeout. I love you, hon.


At 5:45 AM, August 25, 2005, Blogger Jess said...

Yeah, Dolly was a bit disappointing, but all that mattered was spending my evening with you!


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