Halifax, NS 2006

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Halifax showers Chicks with affection

By Jim Reyno, The Daily News

REVIEW - The cheers were repeated, the affection palpable, the message clear: the Dixie Chicks were among friends last night.

During Ready to Run, the band's final song of the concert, lead singer Natalie Maines thrust her miked hand at the jubilant Metro Centre crowd for a duet. About 9,000 or so obliged, but they'd been obliging all night - singing along with the slow songs and stomping with the kickers.

And the signs fans brought to the Metro Centre said it all: "Natalie 4 Prime Minister;" "HFX (heart) DCX." One fan held a small sign that simply said "Thank You," while another said something about Canada and free speech.

You may have heard a thing or two about the Dixie Chicks catching some flak in the U.S. for comments about President George W. Bush.

"I gotta tell you," Maines told the crowd early in the show, "It is nice to be in a country where you're not worried about them spitting in your face."

It took awhile for the ovation to subside.

Another lengthy ovation occured during Not Ready To Make Nice, the band's response to the Bush controversy. The climax of the song describes a death threat Maines received. She nailed the vocal and the crowd erupted.

Aside from the political overtones, the Chicks and their excellent backup band (with up to as many as nine players) were hard-hitting musically last night. Rock-style drumming on several songs added oomph. Long Time Gone and the abused-wife liberation anthem Goodbye Earl were especially sharp.

Which is not to say this was a rock show. The Dixie Chicks ballads were surprisingly intimate (Metro Centre ain't exactly the Village Vanguard). Landslide and Cowboy Take Me Away were stand-and-sway favourites of the mostly - just mostly - female audience.

And Lullaby, written, according to Maines, "after we got the mad-as-hell stuff out of our system," was remarkable. The tension and subtlety of the CD version was duplicated live, complete with a majestic Martie Maguire fiddle solo.

After that, the Dixie Chicks really went to work, and downtown went hoedown. The breakneck bluegrass jam White Trash Wedding had everyone on their feet clapping, and the instrumental Li'l Jack Slade kept the tempo brisk.

Not Ready To Make Nice followed, which brought the most vocal, emotional support from the crowd.

But the Dixie Chicks had them all the way. They were there at the end of the regular show, when Maines threw her pick into the crowd and shook a few hands in the front row, and they were still there after the final encore.

They were there before the show even started. People were on their feet cheering before the Chicks took the stage - to the recorded sounds of Hail to the Chief.


• WHAT : Accidents & Accusations tour

• WHERE : Halifax Metro Centre

• WHEN : Last night

• ATTENDANCE : About 9,000 (estimated)

• WARMUP : The good-humoured Bob Schneider and his band played an engaging opening set of seven songs.

• HIGHLIGHTS : Midway through the concert, the Chicks followed the stunning, restrained Lullaby with two high-energy bluegrass kickers — White Trash Wedding and the instrumental Li’l Jack Slade.

• BACK FOR MORE : The Dixie Chicks will play their second show in Halifax tonight.
They’re not just whistlin’ Dixie
Country, yes, but Chicks’ fans revel in boundary breaking show
By STEPHEN COOKE,The Halifax Herald

If there was any doubt that The Dixie Chicks are fast leaving the country music mainstream behind, the trio of songs that played on the sound system at the Halifax Metro Centre before they took the stage on Tuesday night let us know that there would be a slight detour around Nashville. I don’t expect you’d hear Van Halen, Heart and The Flaming Lips prior to the start of a Faith Hill show.

Then the lights dimmed, and the strident tones of Hail to the Chief came out of those same speakers, as the trio and its nine-piece backup band took to the stage under cover of darkness. It was hard to stifle a grin at the gesture, given singer Natalie Maines’ well-publicized comments about the man who normally marches to the beat of that tune, and the band’s opening number Lubbock or Leave It, with its lyrical quips about Southern hospitality, drove the point home.

The Dixie Chicks’ decision to add more northern dates to its Accidents and Accusations tour proved to be an apt one in Halifax, as the sold-out evening at the Metro Centre (the second show takes place tonight) proved to be lovefest for the band, with waves of enthusiasm pouring from the largely female audience in the direction of the stage. The excitement in the room was palpable after the honeyed harmonies of the more traditional honky tonk of Truth No. 2, from 2002’s Home, while the revenge drama Goodbye Earl had the entire arena dancing, clapping and singing along, threatening to drown out the band entirely with its infectious "na na na" chorus.

"Well hello!" declared Maines, in a rare moment of chattiness (trio members Emily Robison and her sister Martie Maguire barely said a word between songs). "It is nice to be in a country where you are not worried about spitting in your face."

For the most part, the group preferred to let the music do the talking, like the upbeat, rootsy The Long Way Around off its latest album Taking the Long Way, which Maines said "explains our philosophy, and how we live our lives" with lyrics about finding your own path, and not following the easy road. Then a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide spoke of growing older, but maintaining a vital stake in what life has in store.

Bandleader David Grissom’s chunky Telecaster riff led into a slice of Motown-style soul on the new tune I Like It, co-written by The Jayhawks’ Gary Louris, a prime example of how the group has been stretching its stylistic legs successfully. But they didn’t give older material short shrift, as Larry Knechtel’s rolling piano and Maguire’s fiddle on the intro to Cowboy Take Me Away generated instant cheers.

Getting out her Omnichord — "the dorkiest instrument there is, with the banjo a close second" — Maines shone on the new song Lullaby, "written after we got all that mad-as-hell stuff out of our system." With a simple, evocative fiddle solo by Maguire, the song proved to be one of the show’s biggest highlights. The same was true of Easy Silence, a beautiful tune with a stunning arrangement involving violin and cello, about love shutting out the outside world.

The group ended on a strong note, with the driving country beat of Long Time Gone and a rousing Wide Open Spaces, before a warmly received encore including the poignant Traveling Soldier — a song that’s more apt than most people would like at the moment — and Bob Dylan’s Mississippi, which could serve as a rebuke to those who’ve abandoned the band in recent years. Based on Tuesday’s high voltage show, those people are better off left in the dark.

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