The Texas trio couldn't resist some political jabs but
also entertained with splendid music.
by Jon Bream, Star Tribune
documentary about the Dixie Chicks will premiere next month at the Toronto Film Festival. It's called "Shut Up and Sing."
That should be the motto for the blockbuster country trio's current, surprisingly slow-selling Accidents and Accusations Tour.
But the Chicks couldn't resist. On Friday night before 11,300 fans at Target Center, the Texas trio mixed a little politics,
some welcome humor, lots of splendid music and -- yes -- some terrific singing into a good but not great concert.
The two-hour, 22-song performance lacked the edge, the spark and the wow-inducing visuals of the Chicks' two sold-out 2003
in-the-round concerts in St. Paul -- which rank among the best arena shows I've seen in this decade.
Like a Vikings player aware of a new code of discipline, lead singer Natalie Maines -- the one who started the trouble
by dissing President Bush at a London concert in 2003 -- seemed a tad careful in front of a worshipful audience in a historically
blue state. After making one duh-inducing joke about the president (something about they had to hold his plane so he could
drink his Gatorade), she said, "We're here to do some songs" and not jokes about the president.
Actually, the Chicks' best presidential bits were musical. They entered the arena to a countrified version of "Hail to
the Chief" (compared to Bruce Springsteen's protest classic "Born in the U.S.A." in 2003). In mid-set, the trio, accompanied
by nine other top-notch musicians, put their protests in song: the defiant hit "Not Ready to Make Nice" and the ensuing mellow
"Easy Silence," both of which can be interpreted as personal as well as political.
On the second verse of the medium-tempo "Not Ready," Maines exploded into a feisty, fist-pumping rebel, making this spine-tingling
protest song as powerful as any roaring anthem heard this summer at the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert in St. Paul.
But, as Maines said, that was enough "mad as hell" songs, and she reminded the faithful that she, Emily Robison and Martie
Maguire are moms (seven kids between them). So they sang the gorgeously soothing "Lullaby" and "So Hard," a rare tune about
infertility. Indeed, the Chicks covered the gamut of female emotions: from the rollicking hoedown "White Trash Wedding" (dedicated
to Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock) to the yearning, acoustic -- and yes, patriotic -- "Travelin' Soldier."
Probably the best vocalizing of the night was heard on 1999's "Cowboy Take Me Away," which was so dreamy, so romantic and
so country -- especially for a Texas trio that recently said it doesn't want to be heard by fans of Toby Keith and Reba McEntire.
Maybe, just maybe, these Chicks are tired of being roasted by red-state conservatives. As they sang in their finale, they're
"Ready to Run," not ready to rumble.
Dixie Chicks not ready to fill an arena
by Ross Raihala, Pioneer Press
When the Dixie Chicks emerged this spring, three years after lead singer Natalie Maines' jabs at President Bush ignited
a nationwide controversy, the title of the trio's comeback single said it all: "Not Ready to Make Nice." And in a subsequent
series of high-profile interviews, the Chicks defiantly declared they were ready to ditch mainstream country music.
The problem, however, is that in mounting the "Accidents and Accusations" tour, they
continued to act like, well, a mainstream country act, planning a full-scale arena romp with the assumption they could instantly
replace all those former followers.
Soft ticket sales and more than a dozen canceled shows later, the Chicks pulled into
the Twin Cities — one of their strongest markets — for a Friday night gig at the Target Center in front of about
11,300 fans. For those keeping score, that's about a quarter the number that caught the group's pair of sold-out shows at
the X in 2003.
And that's a shame. The trio's terrific new disc "Taking the Long Way" extends their
sound into more subtle, L.A. country rock territory. Packed with some gorgeous songs — that, pre-controversy, would
be all over country radio — the disc also boasts collaborations with locals Gary Louris (the Jayhawks) and Dan Wilson
Those fresh numbers sparkled live, with Wilson's "The Long Way Around" coming off
like a long-lost Fleetwood Mac track. It was followed by the real deal, the Chicks' famed cover of "Landslide." Elsewhere,
Louris' trademark touch was all over the melodic, wistful "Everybody Knows" and Wilson's "Lullaby" — dedicated to the
trio's combined brood of seven kids — had fans singing along to the hushed chorus.
Despite the trio's stylistic explorations, though, one of the most upbeat songs of
the night turned out to be the old nugget "Goodbye Earl," complete with a stripped-down, tougher arrangement. (As stripped-down
as it can get with a total of a dozen musicians onstage, anyway.)
And for all the brash talk of "Not Ready to Make Nice" — another highlight
of the night — the ladies mainly kept their cool. Early on, Maines cracked an odd joke about President Bush not being
able to take his Gatorade on Air Force One, but quickly promised it would be her last gag of the night. Which was great, because
what Maines lacks as a comedian, she more than makes up for as the frontwoman of a group that's just getting started in exploring
some fascinating, exciting new territory.
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