Birmingham, England 2003

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Dixie Chicks 
 
By Dave Simpson
The Guardian

"Anyone aware of the incident March 10?" asks singer Natalie Maines, referring to the band's last UK visit, when a remark that she was "ashamed" of George Bush led to waves of anti-Chicks feeling and record burnings across the US. "This song makes a lot more sense," she cries, and launches into Patty Griffin's Truth No 2: "You don't like the sound of the truth coming from my mouth."

As the song charges forth, screens show images of civil liberties marches and apartheid in the US as recently as the 60s. The message is as simply powerful as the banner carried by the cinematic protestors: when ordinary people unite, "we shall overcome".

It's a weird world when a bunch of guitar-wielding country gals can be demonised as "Saddam's angels", but the Dixies' power lies in their ordinariness. These are not seasoned anti-war campaigners - they are Texan belles from Bush's own back yard. Clearly a lot of Americans would prefer them to shut up and bake cakes. The trio are sussed enough to not let the controversy detract from the fact that they are primarily fabulous musicians, and over two hours they demonstrate why they piled up the Grammies before conservative America turned its back.

Their country music is rooted in MTV pop with appeal to all ages. Some songs now take on a different hue, notably Travelin' Soldier, a lament about a military lover who fails to return home. Blonde Maines is equally powerful in song as between them, a gigantic holler presumably spawned by years of bawling at mangy dogs and given a certain tremor by tottering on unfeasibly pointy boots. Apart from a whisper about "peace" Maines makes no further contentious comments, although the chap in the audience draped in the US flag gets several from those around him.

Otherwise, the gig is more of a love-in than a war zone; a feast of zithers, whiskers, guitar-pickers, preposterous glitzy outfits and the power of restraint, any or all of which the more aggressive sections of the US government are invited to try out some time.

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