For The Dixie Chicks, It's All About
By Kristina Dorsey
Sorry, but no.
Lead singer Natalie Maines did not hurl any political insults at Wednesday's
Dixie Chicks concert at Mohegan Sun Arena. The trio did not write some new lyrics for “White Trash Wedding” and
rename the song “White House Dreading.” Maines did not wear a T-shirt with a profane shout-out to Toby Keith.
For a group whose identity has become so entwined with that one sentence that
Maines spoke in 2003 — she said that she and her Chickmates were ashamed that President Bush was from their home state
of Texas — the relative avoidance of the topic was surprising.
Granted, there were a couple of fleeting references to the Bush-bashing brouhaha.
When the band took to the still-darkened stage at the start of the show, “Hail to the Chief” played. Later, as
she introduced “Lullaby,” Maines explained that they wrote the song “after we were mad as hell and got it
all out of our system.”
Any other discontent was relegated to their lyrics. When the Chicks played
their mad-as-hell anthem “Not Ready to Make Nice,” the crowd went absolutely wild, sang along and gave it a prolonged
standing ovation. The Chicks must have been heartened by the response of all the concertgoers who were so vociferous in their
For all the expectations of something scandalous or even watercooler-worthy
to come out of the show — for all the expectations that this would be an important moment in pop culture — it
was, in the end, just a concert.
It was a pristine sounding concert at that. The trio's harmonies were immaculate,
shimmering gorgeously in such songs as “Lullaby” and “Travelin' Soldier.” Their instrument-playing
was incredibly accomplished. Sisters Martie Maguire, on fiddle and mandolin, and Emily Robison, on banjo and guitar, were
capable of real tour de forces, and even Maines, occasionally playing guitar and bass, more than kept pace.
What was lacking was the fiery personality and best-girlfriends camaraderie
that the women have displayed in interviews. Although their music was ardent, they themselves seemed rather remote. The trio
didn't have much interaction with each other, never mind the audience. Even when playing tongue-in-cheek songs like “Goodbye
Earl” and “Sin Wagon,” they wore mostly dispassionate expressions — not serious but not frisky either.
When Maines said, “We've had a great time tonight,” I honestly thought: Really? Did they?
Part of their reticence might be that they're gun-shy after the fallout from
their 2003 in-concert anti-Bush statement. But they haven't shied away from that subject on the new CD or in recent interviews.
In fact, they've faced it head on, with passion, reigniting the controversy in the process. And I do remember a televised
Chicks concert pre-2003 that displayed a similar focus on music rather than stage presence.
The music on Wednesday was, in fact, superb. The two-hour show leaned heavily
on songs from the latest CD, and Maines gave a wink and a nod to the rock influences on that release. For one song, she told
the audience that, just in case anyone thought the group was going rock 'n' roll, she was going to play the omnichord.
The current tour was originally plagued by stories of concerts (primarily
in the South) being canceled because of poor ticket sales. Not here. Mohegan Sun Arena was sold out. Apparently, reports of
the death of the Chicks' touring career have been greatly exaggerated.