DECKED in rhinestones with the sort of blonde curls that would make any Essex girl jealous, the Queen of Country Dolly Parton could never be described as understated.

But with a career stretching back to the late ’60s and more hits than an X Factor finalist could dream of, this Smokey Mountains girl from a family of “fertile hillbillies” takes to the stage with an infectious girlish enthusiasm that has everyone from the middle-aged couples to the 6ft drag queen on the front row up on their feet.

A bluegrass medley, including a version of the Beatles’ Help, goes down a storm, although a foray into rap (after talking about her new film, in which she stars with Queen Latifah) is a little more ill-advised.

But at no point does Dolly look like she is taking herself too seriously, and while her “improvised” chats might be more rehearsed than they first appear, there is a genuine openness and warmth about the star that draws the audience to her.

Then, of course, there are the hits. An early-in-the-set rendition of Jolene sets the standard, while the pop juggernaut of Nine To Five induces near hysterics in several in the audience.

Coat Of Many Colours is as poignant as ever, while Islands In The Stream causes a mass arms-in-the-air moment.

It is rare a singer of Dolly’s standing can perform new songs that immediately grab the audience with the same intensity of the golden oldies, but several tracks from her new album, Better Day, prove she is still as talented a writer as ever, particularly the next single, Together You And I, a charmingly upbeat celebration of lifelong love and friendship.

She finishes, of course, with the song that made her a multi-millionaire, I Will Always Love You.

And from the standing ovation from the 20,000-strong crowd it seems the feeling is mutual.