James Taylor/Dixie Chicks
By Kevin C. Johnson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Pop Music Critic
Part of the fun going into the James Taylor and Dixie Chicks Vote for Change concert Wednesday
night at the Fox Theatre was betting on which moment might be the most memorable.
Would it be the two headliners putting
their heads together on a version of Taylor's still lovable "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)"? The Dixie Chicks' always
fun version of "Sin Wagon"? No, it had to be figuring out what explosive comment might come out of Dixie Chick Natalie Maines'
It has been a professionally quiet 2004 for Maines, who has a 3-month-old son. But last year,
Maines' unfashionably overt bashing of President George W. Bush - she said she was ashamed to be from the same state - sent
her group grazing in black-sheep territory.
Maines wasn't afraid to take it there Wednesday, reminding the 4,000 or so fans of "the incident"
early during the group's appearance. She said she's often asked whether she has any regrets, whether she wishes she could
take her words back.
"I thought about it. But Bush would just call me a flip-flopper. I'm sticking to it," Maines
said to tremendous applause.
Pop legend Taylor's most pointed message came later in introducing his "Line 'Em Up"
and "Slap Leather." He said he wrote the former song on President Richard Nixon's leaving office and the latter for President
Ronald Reagan's exit.
"You know what? I feel another song coming on," he said.
Taylor, who kicked off the
evening, mixed songs such as "Secret O' Life" and "Never Die Young" with reminders that Wednesday evening was the last to
register to vote. He offered advice on how to vote: "Look at the two candidates and choose the smart one."
went the second Vote for Change concert, which came on the heels of Tuesday night's slam-bang, sold-out Pearl Jam concert.
Both shows are part of national tours serving as political fund-raisers for MoveOn.org, which supports Sen. John Kerry.
Taylor and Dixie Chicks show was a true collaborative effort. They quite naturally performed each others' songs together while
also performing separately, all done seamlessly in front of the same band. It was especially great seeing an animated Taylor
tackling lead vocals on several Dixie Chicks hits, including "Wide Open Spaces" and "Some Days You Gotta Dance."
Dixie Chicks joined Taylor for "Sweet Baby James" and "October Road" before Taylor retired from the stage for a while to allow
the Chicks to deliver their "Truth No. 2," "Travelin' Soldier" and "Mississippi." After performances such as these, and the
following "Landslide," "Long Time Gone" and "Cowboy Take Me Away," isn't it time this group was fully forgiven by upset fans
and the country-radio industry? There's just no denying Maines' spirited voice and Martie Maguire's sizzling fiddle.
renditions of his "Fire and Rain" and "Carolina on My Mind," which he dedicated to Kerry's running mate, Sen. John Edwards
of North Carolina, showed why the pop star is such as enduring favorite, a fact made clear by his fans' reception whenever
he walked onstage.
The lullabye "Close Your Eyes" ended the evening. Taylor said it was appropriate because of all
the Dixie Chicks' children crawling and running around backstage.