Washington, DC 2003

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The Eagles & the Chicks: Flying High Without Windiness
 
By Sean Daly
Special to The Washington Post

Natalie Maines didn't bray about maniacal major record labels. Glenn Frey didn't spout off about the evils of the Internet. In fact, with the exception of an odd, mumbly speech about "corporate consolidation" from vainglorious blowhard Don Henley, you never would have known that Sunday's Dixie Chicks-Eagles show at MCI Center was a benefit concert for something called the Recording Artists' Coalition. 
        
Instead, the terribly unsexy topics of copyright law and illegal file downloading were kept on the down-low as those country gals and SoCal grandpas used the four-hour Concert for Artists' Rights to do nothing more than unload earnest, energized versions of hit after hit. Just as well: The rowdy capacity crowd didn't pay big bucks to hear how hard it is to be a rock star; it just wanted to hear "Goodbye Earl" and "Hotel California."

The Dixie Chicks -- on the final night of their worldwide tour -- strung together a less poppy, more bluegrassy set of tunes from their last two albums, "Fly" and "Home." Lead singer Maines, whose herky-jerky crab-dance is curiously similar to Axl Rose's back-and-forth shuffle, never touched the topic of George W. Bush. Dressed as if ready to do battle in Thunderdome, the leather-clad cowpunkette let loose her twangy, roof-raising pipes on such porch-pickers as "Sin Wagon," "White Trash Wedding" and Bob Dylan's love-done-me-wrong gem "Mississippi."

The Eagles -- now just Frey, Henley, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh -- might have lost some swagger since the '70s, but give the roots-rockers credit for maintaining a crowd-pleasing efficiency. "The Long Run," "Take It to the Limit," "Already Gone," "Life in the Fast Lane" -- plus 16 other know-'em-by-heart hits -- were all turned into mad-grinning, smooth-harmonizing jams. The vocally ageless Henley and that lovable mess Walsh even crammed in some of their sans-Eagles hits ("The Boys of Summer," "Dirty Laundry," "Life's Been Good," "Funk #49").

For the encore, the Chicks joined the Eagles for a sloppy but spirited "Take It Easy" and an absolutely gorgeous Maines-Henley duet of "Desperado." Natalie and Don on the same stage is usually cause for long-winded concern. But for one night at least, those political rabble-rousers let the pretty music do the talking.
 
 

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