The band played a tight set that ran one hour and a half, treating enthused listeners to some 18 songs culled from its
most recent CD, "Taking the Long Way," as well as older favorites from "Home," "Fly" and "Wide Open Spaces." Stylishly hip
in black attire, lead singer Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire (violin, mandolin) and Emily Robison (banjo, lap steel guitar)
were backed by a band of seven. Key players were acoustic guitarist/songwriter Keith Sewell (who's played with James Taylor
and Ricky Skaggs) and drummer Fred Eltringham (of the Wallflowers), who seemed to drive the band's high energy with his rock-like
intensity and long hair flying the entire night. Two additional musicians on cello and violin joined the band for a good number
of the tunes, too.
Six large silver panels hanging vertically at the back of the stage displayed seemingly random graphics throughout the
night, while a large white screen hanging from the ceiling offered audience members a bird's-eye view (Chicks'-eye view?)
of the band members up close. The crowd was overwhelmingly female and white, though it spanned a wide age range. A smattering
sported cowboy hats and some wore cowboy boots; a few drank too much. (This reporter was smacked in the back of the head several
times when an over-exuberant woman jumped to her feet to dance and sing; a friend sitting elsewhere ended up with a wine-soaked
coat by night's end.)
The sound was mostly crystal clear—not an easy feat in a domed stadium. The opening chords of the third song in the
set, "Goodbye Earl," a ditty about domestic violence in which a woman takes command of an abusive situation, sent a roar rippling
through the crowd. It was a little surreal to hear many gleeful women sing, "And it didn't take 'em long to decide/That Earl
had to die."
Fans likewise cheered lead singer Maines when she crooned "Not Ready to Make Nice," a tune the band wrote after Maines
maligned President George W. Bush onstage at a show in London in 2003.Audience members also appreciated "The Long Way Around,"
a cover of the Fleetwood Mac hit "Landslide," and "White Trash Wedding," a track that Maines dedicated to Kevin Federline,
Britney Spears' soon-to-be-ex.
The outspoken petite one didn't get political in her chatter until the end of the set. Acknowledging the results of this
past week's elections, Maines said she felt like it was Christmas. The Chicks then closed out the set with "Wide Open Spaces"
and "Sin Wagon," one of several songs during the night that had Maines cutting loose with a few dance moves that showed her
strength lies in her vocals. The group's three-tune encore—including a cover of Bob Dylan's "Mississippi" and ending
with "Ready to Run"—had the feel of a spirited jam session, with the musicians strolling around the stage and continuing
to enjoy what was fun for all.
So you had to figure that Natalie Maines – recovering pop pariah and infamous basher of George W. Bush – might
gloat a little Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome.
And so she did towards the end of the Dixie Chicks’ lively and sometimes powerful two-our set. She joked that many
of the more than 15,000 on hand must have been thinking “I can’t believe she didn’t say anything about the
So she asked, “How ‘bout those elections?” And the crowd roared its approval; louder, even, than when
the singer’s infamous “we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas” comment --
the catalyst for protests and removal from radio play lists in 2003 -- appeared in a trailer for the new Chicks flick “Shut
Up & Sing” before the popular country trio’s performance.
“It’s Christmas. Santa got my list a couple of years late,” a vindicated Maines added before she and
fellow Chicks Martie Maguire and Emily Robison continued with early hit “Wide Open Spaces,” backed by a large
supporting band. (Nine musicians were onstage at any given time.)
But the Dixie Chicks aren’t exactly what you’d call a political band, despite all the fuss that’s been
made about Maines’ leanings since ‘03. And the only other thing that remotely passed for a political statement
was their tongue-in-cheek entrance to “Hail to the Chief,” a nice if slightly obvious touch.
For the most part, the Texas threesome let tunes do the talking. And they spoke volumes, reminding fans of how the Chicks
stood out in the formula-laden world of top-40 country even before all the controversy – with sass, sweet vocal harmony
and plenty of spicy bluegrass flavor.
Their performance was also a testament to how good the backlash may have actually been for them in the long run, for that
Their sales continue to soar even if many country stations still don’t play them. They’ve found a new niche
on VH1 and lighter rock stations. And rockin’ opener “Lubbock or Leave It” -- from the new “The Long
Way Around” album -- was an example of an invigorating new vibe that’s crept into their sound now that they quit
caring about catering to country radio.
Of the new songs, the soul-inflected “I Hope” provided one of the set’s high points, as did the gently
cascading “Lullaby,” a song about their kids. And Maines delivered “Not Ready to Make Nice,” a musical
response to all the Chick bashing, with such arresting conviction that you really believed her when she sang “I’m
still mad as hell/ can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should.”
Of course, there were plenty of old favorites, too. Fans first stood up and clapped en masse for “Goodbye Earl,”
the trio’s quirky revenge fantasy about whacking an abusive hubby. The trio’s popular and affecting tribute to
Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” went over similarly well a few songs later.
And Maines was funniest when she dedicated the rowdy “White Trash Wedding” to Kevin Federline, K-Fed having
just split with pop tart wife, Britney Spears.
Fans were eager for more by the time the Chicks took a bow with the rowdy “Sin Wagon.” They cheered for several
moments before the trio re-emerged, sans backing band, to start the encore with the plaintive “Travelin’ Soldier.”
The encore also included Bob Dylan’s “Mississippi” and “Fly” era favorite, “Ready to
With great performances like Saturday’s, the Chicks continue to make a mockery of all those radio stations that still
won’t play their new album despite the quality of it’s content and its undeniable popularity (1.7 million sales
But the Chicks even seemed to thumb their noses at the notion that they need pander to country radio in subtle ways, from
between set music that included the Rolling Stones and Green Day to opening act Bob Schneider.
Sure, the Austin singer-songwriter delivered with a hint of twang. But Schneider’s was a jammy rock sound, something
akin to a southern fried Dave Matthews. And his most impressive feat may have been closing with a gender-bending delivery
of Aretha Franklin’s hit “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and making it work. That probably wouldn’t
go over quite as well at the Toby Keith show.
Dixie Chicks play up a storm in 'purgatory'
By Gene Stout for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The Dixie Chicks may not be ready to "make nice," but making great music is another matter.
It's been more than three years since the country-pop trio suffered a career meltdown after singer Natalie Maines dissed
President Bush at a London concert as the U.S. was about to launch the Iraq war.
Performing Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome, the Dixie Chicks took a cheering, supportive crowd down memory lane with
a show that revisited the trio's glorious past and marched defiantly toward the future.
From the feisty opening song, "Lubbock or Leave It," to the somber encore tune, "Travelin' Soldier," the Dixie Chicks were
in top form, offering a powerful, engaging performance that brought the crowd of about 15,000 to its feet.
Before the Dixie Chicks took the stage, concertgoers did the "wave." And when the house lights went down, they waved their
lighted cell phones.
If it hadn't been for a trailer from "Shut Up & Sing," the new Dixie Chicks documentary, and a couple of wisecracks
about the Bush administration, it might have been easy to forget the PR disaster that nearly squashed the most popular female
group in country music history.
After the nine-piece backup band led by guitarist David Grissom took the stage amid the strains of "Hail to the Chief,"
the Dixie Chicks kicked off a 22-song set that featured songs from the group's new album, "Taking the Long Way." Among them
was the icy single, "Not Ready to Make Nice," which drew a cheer from the audience.
The stage featured dazzling visual effects and a bold, colorful backdrop of lighted panels. A single video screen offered
close-ups of the group.
Maines and fellow Chicks Emily Robison (guitar, banjo and dobro) and Martie Maguire (fiddle and mandolin) filled the half-hour
with Patty Griffin's "Truth No. 2"; the comic, murderous "Goodbye Earl"; and a beautiful "The Long Way Around." Maines was
enchanting on Stevie Nicks' "Landslide" and the classic "Cowboy Take Me Away."
Maguire's fiddle playing was highlighted on the latter, but it wasn't until "White Trash Wedding" and "Lil' Jack Slade"
that she (and Robinson on banjo) really cut loose.
The trio closed its main set with a sweet, somber "Top of the World," as well as a gorgeous "Wide Open Spaces" and a rambunctious
"Two more years and I'm done with this," Maines said, referring to Bush and, presumably, an end to the trio's stay in purgatory.
The trio closed shortly after 11 p.m. with a spirited encore of "Travelin' Soldier," "Mississippi" and "Ready to Run."
The Dixie Chicks have lost as well as gained fans over the Bush flap. But politics aside, the trio plays some of the best
music that country has to offer.
Opening for the Dixie Chicks was Austin singer-songwriter Bob Schneider, who led a singalong of his whimsical tune, “Tarantula.”