Glastonbury this year has been notable for its patchy early line-up, mud, more mud, and at least until Metallica's heavy-metal rearguard action, the sense that it was slightly underwhelming compared to previous years. That was until Dolly Parton came to town.
Her appearance in a sparkling white pantsuit and with massive (fake) hair was, without exaggeration, the biggest attraction since the Rolling Stones packed out the Pyramid Stage last year, her swaying fans and their flags seeming to run right back to the barn doors of Worthy Farm. And what followed was a country hoedown worthy of Dolly’s Smokey Mountain hometown in Minnesota. It came after a Saturday dominated by mud as much as metal, whereas Dolly was treated to fine weather and a series of crowd-pleasing warm-up acts.
It was as if Michael Eavis has lined up the acts, including the English National Ballet, The 1975, a secret Kooks gig and feel-good folk from Lucy Rose, to give the inhabitants of Glastonbury time to recover from the night before and polish their cowboy boots (or at least knock the worst of the mud of their wellies).
The queen of country, who said she grew up on a farm just like “Mr Eavis” so was used to mud, was soon dancing and prancing across the vast stage to her feel-good hits including “Why Don’t You Come In here Lookin’ Like That”, “Jolene” and soulful “Islands in the Stream”. She may have had a showy sparkling banjo to pluck, but it was her powerful voice that really impressed.
Even “Blue Smoke” (the title track from her new album, which she plugged heavily) was quickly picked up by the crowd, who had clearly never heard it before. “Here You Come Again” was a big hit too before “Nine to Five” heralded a mass sing-along, easily embarrassing Metallica and Arcade Fire’s attempts earlier in the weekend.
Earlier in the day, Warwickshire vocalist Lucy Rose had delighted on the Other Stage. She was clearly nervous in front of such a big crowd, but it was perfect cider and picnic music and her winsome tones (a gravely, faster Laura Marling) will surely get her a bigger slot next year.
Elsewhere The 1975 offered a rocky warm-up to Dolly, with an exuberant if unpolished and slightly immature set that baffled gathering Dolly die-hards. Their mud-splattered, sweaty, scraggly appearance could be more different from the American superstar who followed.
Dolly wasn’t the only American star either; she was joined on stage by Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Samora for a rocky “Lay Your Hands On Me”, which she called, “just a conversation with the Lord”. The crowd loved its fast-pace, rocky tempo and slashed guitars, though it was so vast that some at the back will have struggled to know what was going on.
Fans who did battle in to the front, will have been treated to a conversational Dolly, who ended with “I Will Always Love You”. The Glastonbury hoedown continued with Kasabian headlining, but Dolly will surely know that she brought more than enough country charm to leave Glastonbury smiling. She had just the superstar quality it was missing.