CLEARWATER - The crowd at Ruth Eckerd
Hall gave up watching the presidential debate Friday night but still got a fair amount of politics and a lot of music from
performers James Taylor and the Dixie Chicks.
``I guess you must be taping the debate,'' Taylor told the cheering crowd as he ended
his opener, ``Something in the Way'' after a 20-minute late start to the more than two- hour concert. ``I wish our guy good
Armed with a spotlight and a guitar, Taylor called a few of the songs scattered among
the standards ``mildly'' political. But those he said he wrote after both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan left the presidency
carried a bite.
``It was a delightful stretch of time,'' after Nixon left office, said the self-professed
``Old Yellow Dog Democrat.''
Now, Taylor said, ``I'm ready to write a new tune.''
Taylor encouraged the sold- out audience of 2,182 to sign up to volunteer in the
lobby where passers-by were asked, ``Got a second to get Bush out of office?''
And for those still undecided voters, Taylor suggested, ``Choose the smart one ...
it's just a thought, just an idea.''
Soon after the Dixie Chicks joined Taylor on stage for ``Sweet Baby James,'' lead
singer Natalie Maines got the first of many standing ovations when she simply referred to ``the incident.'' Last year in London,
Maines said she was embarrassed to come from the same state of Texas as President Bush.
She's been asked if she regrets saying it, but noted, ``Bush would just think I was
a flip-flopper'' if she did.
The Dixie Chicks tagged their song ``Truth #2'' ``a song about free speech'' followed
by a mournful ``Travelin' Soldier'' about a young woman's grief for a young soldier who lost his life in Vietnam.
The subdued crowd mixed Kerry-Edwards T-shirts with those supporting the Dixie Chicks
and Taylor. They leaned mostly toward middle age and were only subdued until the music started, then they cheered through
standing ovations for both the music and the political messages.
Some in the crowd said they were taping Friday night's presidential debate; others
said they didn't need to.
Henry Kolb, of Archer, brought his 11-year-old daughter Karina and her friend Kayla
Clark to support the Dixie Chicks ``because they got nixed because they spoke out.'' Kolb noticed the dozen or so Bush-Cheney
supporters with signs on the highway leading to the hall and asked, ``What's the point? Do they think they're going to sway
The concert was one of six across the state Friday that were part of the Vote for
Change tour. The tour, sponsored by the political action committee MoveOn and benefiting a voter mobilization effort called
Americans Coming Together, is aimed at ousting President Bush in November's election. Concerts occurred in other ``swing states''
deemed critical to the election.
Other Vote for Change concerts in Florida on Friday included Pearl Jam with Death Cab for Cutie in Kissimmee; Bruce Springsteen
& the E Street Band, R.E.M. and Tracy Chapman in Orlando; Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Keb' Mo' and Sheryl Crow in Jacksonville;
The Dave Matthews Band, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals and Jurassic 5 in Gainesville; and John Mellencamp and Kenneth
``Babyface'' Edmonds in Miami Beach.
Taylor, Dixie Chicks Bring Harmony To Campaign
The artists bring the Vote For Change tour to ruth Eckerd Hall to
perform and rally the crowd for Kerry
By STEVE PERSALL, St. Petersburg Times
CLEARWATER - James Taylor and the Dixie Chicks preached to the choir Friday night
on another leg of the Vote for Change tour at Ruth Eckerd Hall.
Sometimes, the choir sang back.
The performers' separate roads from Texas and Massachusetts to stardom converged
before more than 2,000 fans, continuing a collaboration that began when the acts recently taped a Country Music Television
special. Their styles meshed beautifully as they shared the stage, each other's songs and a common interest in removing President
Bush from office on Nov. 2.
While the president and Democratic Party nominee John Kerry clashed in St. Louis,
the voices of Taylor and the Chicks - specifically lead singer Natalie Maines - blended with blissful results. Taylor took
the lead on Dixie Chicks hits such as Wide Open Spaces and Ready to Run, sounding as if they were his songs
from conception. The women's rural raves even coaxed a few dance moves from Taylor's typical still-water disposition.
At other times, the Chicks returned the tribute with fetching versions of Taylor
classics such as Sweet Baby James and stunning harmonies (Shower the People and a version of Carolina in
My Mind dedicated to Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards) bolstering Taylor's warm, reedy voice.
Sure, the performers retained possession of several fan favorites - for example,
the Dixie Chicks' Sin Wagon and Travelin' Soldier and Taylor's signature Fire and Rain - but highlights
of the two-hour, 15-minute concert were those occasions when artists separated by age, gender, culture and genre found common
ground, the most understated political statement of the evening.
Mostly the polemics weren't understated at all.
"People tell me you don't change horses in the middle of the stream," Taylor remarked
during a break. "But if your horse doesn't know how to swim and is in way over his head. . . ." Before he could finish the
statement, the audience roared in agreement. Taylor concluded: "If you're going to change horses, make it a mule; a big ol'
While much of the mutual playlist was familiar, Taylor resurrected two obscure
songs during his solo portion: Line 'Em Up, which he claimed to have written when Richard Nixon resigned, and Slap
Leather, penned when Ronald Reagan left the White House. "I tell you what: I'm ready to write another tune," Taylor declared
to a delighted crowd.
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