Dixie Chicks give liberated performance in Glendale
by Larry Rodgers for The Arizona Republic
One thing has not changed about the Dixie Chicks since a 2003 onstage remark about President Bush
alienated millions of their most conservative fans: This trio still puts on a fantastic live show.
With their unapologetic
documentary film, “Shut Up & Sing,” playing next door at the new Westgate City Center in Glendale, the Dixie
Chicks showed Sunday that they’ve got the fortitude and musical chops to carry on.
Lead singer Natalie Maines, who triggered the controversy when she told a London audience that
“we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas,” was gracious and low-key as the group
played at a half-full Jobing.com Arena.
She joked that the 19,000-capacity venue looked pretty full, but the entire
sprawling upper level was curtained off, and there were some empty seat in the lower bowl.
But that didn’t dampen
the spirits of the enthusiastic audience members, who had to pass through airport-style metal detectors to enter. (Maines
has received death threats since her comment, which she repeated at the same London theater this year.)
trailer for “Shut Up & Sing” received loud applause from the crowd, as did Maines, fiddle/mandolin player
Martie Maguire and banjo/dobro player Emily Robison when they took the stage to “Hail to the Chief.”
movie details how the Chicks have decided to shift away from country radio, and the show opener, “Lubbock or Leave It”
(from this year’s “Taking the Long Way” album) was delivered with a rock edge. The next song, 2002’s
“Truth No. 2,” was performed as a smooth rocker by the trio and its backing band, anchored by standout Americana
guitarist David Grissom.
A large video curtain behind the stage flashed artsy imagery and gave the setting a rock
Other songs from the strong new album, which is getting little play on mainstream country radio, also had rock
and pop influences, including “Everybody Knows” and “The Long Way Around.” The new material was performed
beautifully by the trio and its seven-piece band (which grew to nine at times when a cello and violinist were added). Maines’
soaring vocals were at the core.
Throughout the set, Maines kept her good humor. She dedicated “White Trash
Wedding” to the soon-to-be former Mr. Britney Spears, Kevin Federline. She introduced a crisp version of “Taking
the Long Way,” which talks about taking the road less-traveled, as focusing on “these fantastic career decisions.”
Maines, outfitted in a black skirt, dark stockings and heels, didn’t need to say anything as the group went
into the defiant single, “Not Ready to Make Nice.” In the middle of the song, Maines nearly screamed as she recounted
receiving a death threat in the mail from “a perfect stranger,” drawing a loud, supportive response from the crowd.
Despite the absence of the right-wing country crowd (which might benefit from a refresher course on the First Amendment
to the U.S. Constitution), the Texas-spawned Dixie Chicks didn’t abandon their roots Sunday.
in a healthy dose of such countrified tunes as “Long Time Gone” (which laments the loss of traditional sounds
in modern country, “Lil’ Jack Slade” (featuring a hot banjo and guitar jam) and the 1998 mega-hit, “Wide
Open Spaces.” Maines said the third song “has yet to get old for me.”
Some of the most poignant
moments came when Maines, Maguire and Robison took the spotlight for such acoustic-based numbers as “Lullabye”
and “Easy Silence.”
The 2003 political controversy has brought headaches and lost revenue to the Dixie
Chicks, but it also appears to have liberated them musically.
Fellow Texas player Bob Schneider opened with a good-natured
set of rootsy rock. The highlight was a singalong for the Spanish-flavored “Tarantula.”
smaller venues in the Valley a few times a year. This talented singer-songwriter is worth a more extended listen the next
time he comes through.