Fans Devour Dazzling Dixie Chicks
Pat-down At Concert Checks Record
17,065 For Would-be 'Assassins' at Alltel Arena
By Jack W. Hill
Security precedures seemed to take
on a more thorough magnitude at the Dixie Chicks' soldout concert Friday night at Alltel Arena in North Little Rock. The pat-down
was a little more serious andmusic fans knew that the Chicks were no longer beloved by all those who once hailed their virtues.
But you would not have known the trio
had any detractors once you got inside.
Joy and merriment reigned, as people
surveyed the impressive dynamics of the concert "in-the-round" experiences, with the stage spread far and wide with sweeping
paths, angles, different levels and steps, so the three women could dash to al corners of the stage while their 12 person
band came and went in the center of the setup.
And as if to thwart and would-be assassins,
the Chicks came and went hidden in equipment cases, since there was no hidden trapdoor in the building floor. The show drew
17,065 fans, which arena marketing director Betty Baxter said was the largest crowd ever at Alltel. It surpassed the Arkansas
Razorbacks basketball game against Oklahoma State in 2001 that attracted 44 fewer people.
The predominantly female audience was
ready to rock from the beginning, starting with "Goodbye Earl", the Chicks' 1999 song that first gave notice that the women
didn't mind upsetting the country music establishment by openly discussing murder as a solution to spousal abuse.
Anyone expecting Natalie Maines to
utter anymore inflammatory statements about President Bush were doomed to disappointment, although there was plenty of food-for-thought
during the intermission when the break music consisted of carefully chosen songs that created a mood -- one of awareness of
the Chicks' tilting at the censorship windmill.
And during "Truth #2", about half-way
through the show, the large video screens displayed images of people demonstrating for civil rights, against the Vietnam War,
for women's rights and so on. Film of records by the Beatles being crushed were shown, as well as the crushing of Dixie Chicks'
CDs, and the admonitions to "register, vote, seek the truth".
"There's Your Trouble" was a fine showcase
for Martie Maguire's fiddling skills and "Long Time Gone" was nicely done, as were "Travelin' Soldier", "White Trash Wedding",
"Tortured, Tangled Hearts", "Lil' Jack Slade" and the Chicks' version of Fleetwood mac's "Landslide".
The encore, starting with "Top of the
World", featured the stunning combination of live Chicks and their amazing video of the song, and the two-pronged, provocative
presentation was as hard-hitting as anything Peter Gabrial has ever done. But not content to send people away thinking too
hard, they wrapped it up with their party anthem, "Sin Wagon".
For 110 minutes, the Chicks were virtually
nonstop, and unlike Cher, they took no time for costume or wig changes. what you saw was what you got. The women were dressed
to the nines, with black the predominant color, and all three in stiletto heels, which must have made for some stressful moments
way up high on that stage, not that any of them seem stressed out.
The only regrettable aspect of the
show was the lack of attention paid to fixing the sound so we could hear the fine banjo and dobro-picking of Emily Robison.
there were no problems hearing Maguire's spirited fiddling, so one wondered why sister Emily got no respect.
David Grissom, who led the band, did
a fine job on guitar, which was no surprise after his years with Joe Ely and John Melloncamp. There was even a string section
on some songs.
Opening act Michelle Branch put on
an energetic 38-minute show, but her lyrics were not comprehensible, at least to some of us who have never heard her music,
other than her vocals on a Santana song and that song was not part of her show.
For a 20-year old, she put on a good
performance, and perhaps she merely suffered the fate of many opening acts. The sound system was on automatic pilot and was
not going to be adjusted to suit her needs.