Show Delivers Tunes, Not Talk
Dixie Chicks, Taylor serenade Hancher
By Deanna Truman-Cook, Iowa City Press-Citizen
With all the pre-concert hype surrounding Tuesday's James Taylor and the Dixie
Chicks concert, one might have bet it would become more a political rally than a concert.
If you are one who did, you had better pay up. The superstars kept the music
center stage and the politics secondary.
No Vote for Change talk or even a big introduction opened the more than 2½-hour
Instead, singer/songwriter James Taylor came out unannounced in blue jeans
and a long-sleeve white shirt and sang the first song, "Something in the Way She Moves," with just his guitar.
The Chicks took the stage during the fourth song, "Sweet Baby James," one
of Taylor's signatures songs, with Natalie Maines singing lead vocals and Taylor harmonizing.
From there, the concert rolled on in a back-and-forth manner, including Chicks
favorites "Long Time Gone," and "Travlin' Soldier," as well as Taylor standards such as "Carolina In My Mind."
Perhaps they were testing the waters, or not wanting to alienate any fans
in the audience who paid $73 a ticket, but during the first half of the show the political jabs were slight.
Taylor made a reference to the first presidential debate being just the day
before his and the Chicks' tour kicked off, and added that now things were "rolling" for the candidates. And Maines poked
fun at the remark she made about President Bush last year in London where she said the Chicks were ashamed he was from Texas.
"A lot of things have changed definitely since the incident," she said. "I
think of my life now pre-incident and post-incident."
Maines said she now wonders when she goes out to a restaurant if the chef
is a Republican and is spitting in her food, or with the recent birth of her second child if the nurse messed up the anesthetic
in her epidural on purpose.
It wasn't until after the 15-minute intermission that the stars seemed to
get more comfortable talking politics on stage.
"We usually would steer clear of talking politics, and I hate the competition,
but things are too dire right now," Maines said, "... politeness must go out the window. We must spread the truth; the media
does not do it."
Soon after, Taylor, who called himself "a big old yellow dog Democrat," said
undecided voters should, "Look at both candidates very carefully and then you choose the smart one."
The crowd applauded, but it was clear that it was the music they were after.
From the very beginning, they began cheering a few bars into a song, and many
of the numbers received a standing ovation from the Hancher Auditorium audience.
Maines and Taylor both proved to the audience exactly why they are such big
stars with their powerful vocals, touching lyrics and their strong stage presence. And they even came back for an encore.
Musically Sweet, Politically Sedate
By Kyle Munson, Des Moines Register
Iowa City, Ia. - There was no ducking presidential politics on Tuesday in
John Kerry campaigned in Tipton. The DVD version of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" had its first day in stores.
The vice presidential debate blanketed prime-time TV.
At Hancher Auditorium, the Dixie Chicks and James Taylor were
the state's first taste of the Oct. 1-11 "Vote for Change" tour of swing states, designed to get out the vote for Kerry. Five
other concerts took place simultaneously Tuesday in three surrounding states.
"A lot of things have changed definitely since 'the incident,' " Natalie Maines
of the Dixie Chicks told the capacity crowd of 2,533, referring to her March 2003 slam of President Bush on stage in London
that ignited controversy among the Texas trio's fan base.
"I thought about taking back what I said just for a second,"
Maines continued. "But, you know, I thought Bush would just call me a flip-flopper."
That punch line was greeted with
thunderous applause, but so was Taylor earlier in the evening when he shuffled on stage to start the concert by himself, sitting
on a stool and strumming his acoustic guitar.
Applause was more scattered later when Maines claimed that 67 percent of Republicans
believe that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11.
"Things are just too dire right now,"
she said. "Politeness has to go out the window, and we must tell the truth."
The Chicks and Taylor together? Musically,
how sweet it was.
After a few songs from Taylor with a growing backup band that eventually included six musicians,
the Chicks joined him for "Sweet Baby James." Their harmonies sounded even sweeter in "October Road."
Taylor disappeared for a portion of the seven-song set before intermission,
while the Chicks rocked up Bob Dylan's "Mississippi." He returned for a rendition of "Shower the People."
a soft-spoken campaigner. He said Kerry's performance in Thursday's presidential debate, on the eve of the "Vote for Change"
tour, "definitely picked us up."
Zell Miller he wasn't.
The Chicks returned after intermission with two of their
more rollicking songs, "Sin Wagon" and "Long Time Gone."
But the overall tone of the concert was more reassuring than revolutionary.
The night ended to the tune of a joyous sing-along to "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)." The band exited, and the Chicks
and Taylor remained on stage for a hushed acoustic take on "You Can Close Your Eyes," almost a lullaby, which they dedicated
to their myriad children backstage.
That was how Tuesday night felt, really: heart-tugging politics from a bunch of
The scene in Iowa City wasn't raucous offstage, either. Hancher hired six
extra security guards, at least two of them standing guard in the auditorium throughout the performance. But the only disruption
was the occasional confiscated camera.
The University of Iowa Department of Public Safety reported no arrests midway
through the concert and no problems with protesters.
University policy kept campaign literature and sloganeering out
of Hancher's lobby, but an hour before showtime, the sidewalk out front was a mini-festival swarming with Democratic activists.
MoveOn.org (the "Vote for Change" organizer), America Coming Together, Rock
the Vote, the producers of the Kerry biopic "Going Upriver," and even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals were represented.
Moines native Jolynn Daniel, a singer-songwriter now based in Nashville, performed anti-war songs on her acoustic guitar and
encouraged people to take a free CD if they'd be willing to donate money to one of the activist groups. If concertgoers reached
their seats without signing up for an absentee ballot, it wasn't for lack of the hard sell.
Across the Iowa River, some 200 yards from Hancher, U of I students supporting
Bush held a counterevent before the concert.
"We didn't really want to protest, but we wanted to make a presence,"
said Jeff Daker, a U of I junior from Illinois.
Daker said about 30 students gathered on the back lawn of a fraternity
to show their support for Bush. The group chose to keep their distance from the concert because they think many people came
just to hear the music, not to support Kerry.
But is "Vote for Change" changing votes in Iowa?
Tuesday paid $73 to the liberal political action committee America Coming Together (ACT). Chris Pratt, Iowa coordinator for
ACT, said proceeds would pay for 750 part-time canvassers in Iowa who will knock on doors statewide the two weekends prior
to the election. On Tuesday night, Pratt's 20 or so ACT volunteers were split between Hancher and downtown Iowa City, taking
advantage of concert hype.
Eric and Marianne Davenport of Solon and their daughter, Madison, 8, lounged
in lawn chairs next to their minivan in the parking lot. Madison, decked out in a matching lime green hat, coat and boots,
was there as a Dixie Chicks fan - obviously not as a voter. It was her first concert, and she was determined to hear the song
"Goodbye Earl." Her parents were there as Democratic activists in Johnson County and new members of MoveOn.org.
never volunteered, never felt the need to until now," Mariannne said. War in Iraq is the No. 1 issue of the campaign, they
At Hancher, the Chicks and Taylor complemented each other nicely. The larger
question is whether "Vote for Change" will complement Kerry at the polls come Nov. 2.
No matter who's president for
the next four years, the real story of Tuesday night might be that the Dixie Chicks seem to have warmed up to their roles
Taylor has been a New England liberal since before Watergate, but now the White House must contend
with a multiplatinum country trio that, due to recent events, made the giant leap from perky to political - and like filmmaker
Moore, become a force to be reckoned with.