A Dixieland Delight
Dixie Chicks keep spotlight
on music in energetic show
By Ann Marie McQueen
Corel Centre, Ottawa
OTTAWA -- The Dixie Chicks may have suffered a massive backlash in the U.S.
after singer Natalie Maines' "we're ashamed he's from Texas" comment about President W. George Bush last spring, but judging
from the group's reception at the Corel Centre last night, they can say whatever they want to up here.
refer to "the incident" until she and bandmates Martie Maguire and Emily Robison sat down partway through their two-hour concert
to sing Truth No. 2, off last year's Grammy-winning third album Home. When she did, about 15,000 people drowned her out with
"After the incident, this song made a whole lotta sense," she said.
But the Dixie Chicks are about more
than controversy, as they showed last night with a slick performance on a multi-tiered, "in-the-round" stage. The trio first
appeared on a cutout which was slowly elevated. It was an interesting set device which returned later when a four-piece string
section appeared out of nowhere to accompany the trio on their cover of Fleetwood Mac's Landslide.
An eight-piece band
of fellas --three who, for part of the show at least, were wearing a pair of red devil horns on their heads -- filled in the
group's lush sound, a combination of bluegrass, pop and country.
Maguire, a whiz on the fiddle, was showcased throughout
the show but particularly in her frenzied sections on the upbeat hit Ready to Run. Robison was impressive on the banjo, memorably
during the raucous closer Sin Wagon. The three performers maximized the crowd's view by making good use of the stage and its
many platforms. Musically they were adept at taking the energy down for a slow tune like Top of the World and then right back
up again, many times over.
There were lots of recognizable tunes, like show opener Goodbye Earl, a song about taking
revenge on an abusive spouse which sparked its own kerfuffle several years ago; There's Your Trouble, the title track off
their 1998 debut album Wide Open Spaces; and Cowboy Take Me Away off 1999's Fly.
The Dixie Chicks were less Cowgirl
Power and more leather-and-studs to look at, starting with Maines' red-and-black fishnets and thigh-high boots and ending
in all three ladies' impossibly spiky stilettos.
It was all very sophisticated and actually quite
girly, from the talk about motherhood in introducing the ballad Godspeed (Sweet Dreams), to the giant flowers that sprouted
from the sides of the stage during Landslide.
And Maines got more cheers when she stopped to say Canadian fans keep
getting "better and better" despite the trio having been warned we were more of a "quiet, listening audience."
wasn't a hint of retaliation to the latest volley in Maines' war of words with fellow country star Toby Keith. When Keith
was in Ottawa performing July 26, an opening video showed a photo of her face attached to a frog's body while he talked about
her "blowhole." Perhaps selling three times as many tickets as Keith is the best kind of Dixieland revenge.
treasure Jann Arden was a late addition to the Chicks' five Canadian dates. Arden stuck mostly to old crowd favourites like
Insensitive and Good Mother during her half-hour set, though she introduced Ruby Red and Love is the Only Soldier off her
new album, due out next month.