London, ONT 2006
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londonont2006.jpg
photo by Craig Glover / London Free Press

Chicks charm

A full house at the John Labatt Centre was in Dixie heaven last night with their idols.

By James Reaney, The London Free Press

That was one loud and beautiful detour that brought Dixie Chicks to a sold-out John Labatt Centre last night.

With a predominantly female crowd of 9,300 fans cheering on their three heroes and the Chicks' excellent band, the Texas country rock superstars were in Dixie heaven all night.

There were cheers for the Chicks' older hits, like Goodbye Earl, and cheers for their Bush-bashing recent songs. Over more than 100 minutes and several standing ovations, the last one for a three-song encore of Travellin' Soldier, Mississippi and Ready to Run, there was crowd craziness fit for the queens of cool and angry country.

The Chicks pretended to be surprised. After all, those London fans weren't even on the tour list, until a cool shoulder in some U.S. markets led to a Dixie detour into the Great White North.

"There was word around town that this would not be the most energetic crowd on the tour. That's a compliment. They were wrong," Chicks' co-leader Natalie Maines teased early in the set after Goodbye Earl had the crowd rocking.

The Chicks -- lead singer Natalie Maines and multi-instrumentalists Martie Maguire and Emily Robison -- are the biggest selling female group in history with two diamond (diamond meaning 10 million in sales) recordings and numerous Grammy awards. The Chicks' fans last night screamed their proof that they would be as loud as any other city.

Celebrated for bringing traditional instruments such as Robison's banjo and Maguire's fiddle back to the top of the country charts, the Chicks' 2006 album Taking The Long Way (Sony BMG) has a Southern California Rock sound.

The CD also keeps in play Maines's angry comments about a fellow Texan, President George W. Bush, during a London, England appearance in March, 2003. The resultant uproar -- complete with boycotts and death threats -- is the subject of Taking The Long Way's defiant first single,"Not Ready to Make Nice.

The continuing fallout from what the Chicks' circle calls "the incident" has meant some concert dates slated for U.S. venues were cancelled or postponed with Canadian stops, including last night's date originally set for Milwaukee, taking their place.

Well, maybe they heard the huge cheers for Maines and Not Ready to Make Nice in Milwaukee.

Last night's show with the headliners from Texas was the first big concert at the downtown London arena in about a month. In addition to the late summer and early fall shows already announced, another major date is to be confirmed officially soon. Concert industry website Pollstar says U.S. rockers the Goo Goo Dolls are playing the centre on Nov. 15.

"I have not yet seen a confirmation on that date," centre marketing director Dave Harris said yesterday. U.S. rock band Counting Crows is opening on Goo Goo Dolls dates already confirmed for the tour.

Some of the Dixie Chicks' young children, who had been enjoying their superstar moms from seats in the penalty box, decided to retire with their sitters for the evening during the rocking Some Days You Gotta Dance. The sweet-faced little kids had missed their obvious bedtime cue, a lovely Lullaby about six songs earlier.

But then the kids -- who wore huge protective earphones -- would have missed a classic dedication on White Trash Wedding. "(We) dedicate the next song to Pamela (Anderson) and Kid Rock. You guys must be really proud," Maines kidded the crowd.

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