Calgary, Canada 2006
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Song birds
by Tara Merrin for the Calgary Sun

America’s loss is definitely Canada’s gain when it comes to the Dixie Chicks. Country music and liberal politics certainly make for strange bedfellows, so it’s not surprising the less-than-conservative Dixie Chicks — Texans Martie Maguire, Emily Robison and Natalie Maines — are steering towards an edgier rock sound and away from the twangy genre that made them famous.

But what made them infamous also led to low ticket sales and cancelled U.S. dates.

During a 2003 concert in London, Maines declared: “We’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.”

From death threats to low ticket sales and CD-burning parties, the Chicks have paid dearly for that off-the-cuff remark.

Instead of hanging their heads in shame and begging for forgiveness, the group embraced its outlaw status.

And their fans, in Canada at least, are loving it.

Instead of low ticket sales here, the Chicks signed on for two ’Dome shows.

So the sold-out crowd’s enthusiastic response to footage of the group’s documentary Shut Up and Sing, which played on the big screen, was not surprising.

Nor was the similar reaction when they walked on as Hail to the Chief played.

Over the next two hours, they delivered a powerful show highlighted by their instrumental genius and im-pressive vocals.

They harmonized their way through tracks from their new album Taking the Long Way.

Highlights included the songs Lullaby, White Trash Wedding and a haunting cover of Stevie Nicks’ Landslide.

The loudest cheers came when the band kicked into their mission-statement tune Not Ready to Make Nice, in which Maines sings: “I made my bed and I sleep like a baby.”

While the Chicks may rub some people the wrong way, after seeing them live, it’s hard to believe their political views could have turned off so many fans.
Dixie Chicks fired up and feisty

by Heath McCoy for the Calgary Herald

The Dixie Chicks performed a sold-out show at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Sunday night. Attendance: 15,000.

It's tough to take in a Dixie Chicks show these days without getting sucked into the political firestorm burning in their backyard.

And if you happen to be bored to tears with the controversy at this point -- which is by now over three years old -- that's a drag, because, whatever your politics are, this Texas trio is easily one of today's greatest country bands.

They're scorching musicians and spirited entertainers.

There was no doubt about that Sunday night in Calgary, at the first of two nearly sold-out nights at Saddledome.

On song after song, the Chicks, accompanied by their eight-piece backup band, were outstanding.

Their spunky, rollicking ode to poisoning an abusive husband, Goodbye Earle, was a ball.

Reflective anthems such as The Long Way Around and Everybody Knows were irresistible.

Their take on Fleetwood Mac's Landslide was gorgeous, with feisty vocalist Natalie Maines paying Stevie Nicks a moving tribute.

Sweet and teary ballad Cowboy Take Me Away tugged heartstrings all over the 'Dome.

All the while, the stunning sisters, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, traded the hottest licks back and forth, on fiddle and banjo, respectively.

But it's never long before there's some reference -- usually just in passing -- to "the incident," as it's referred to in Chickville.

That goes back to early 2003 when Maines criticized U.S. President George W. Bush in the lead-up to the country's invasion of Iraq.

For exercising her freedom of speech, Maines faced an insane, idiotic backlash -- which included death threats -- from conservative wing-nut types in the United States.

Good on the band for having the guts to stand their ground.

But, three years later, it seems it's only the Chicks themselves who are hellbound and determined to keep this blaze burning.

Sunday night, in between the Chicks' set and a performance by their excellent opening act, Bob Schneider, the band played a trailer for the upcoming documentary, Shut Up And Sing.

Guess what that's about?

"I couldn't figure out how to shut up and sing, so I decided to talk a lot and sing," said Maines to an uproarious response from her adoring, predominantly female audience.

The Chicks hit the stage, it's well worth noting, to the strains of presidential theme Hail To The Chief (a bit provoking, wouldn't you say?) before blazing through the rocking, righteous slam of conservative Bible-belt hypocrisy on Lubbock Or Leave It.

They followed this up with one of the best songs in their canon, the poignant and rebellious Truth No. 2.

Later in the set, the Chicks played an impassioned version of Not Ready To Make Nice, their musical response to the controversy, which sounded much more powerful live than on record.

Keep in mind, the Chicks have also been harping about "the incident" of late to Oprah Winfrey, Larry King and in Time magazine, where they levelled low blows at the country crowd -- millions of whom still supported the band.

The Dixie Chicks are milking the controversy for it all it's worth.

That's hurt them in the United States as far as concert attendance goes.

Here in Canada though, the Chicks are more popular than ever.

Indeed, they now have fans here, based on their scrap with the forces of Dubya, that they would have never attracted before.

At press time, after tearing up the stage to the wild, boot-stompin' Sin Wagon, the Chicks were just back for their encore, which included their tender, acoustic take on Travelin' Soldier.

To be sure, the Chicks are coming off as rather preachy these days. But about 15,000 fans were loving their gospel just the same.

    Please take note of this before emailing me. I have no affiliation with the Dixie Chicks and/or their website, Court Yard Hounds and/or their website, Natalie Maines Music and/or her website, their management, publicists, record label or anyone else they may come in contact with on a regular basis. This is just a fan owned site. I do not have an email address for them. Your message cannot be passed on to them.
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