Forget fancy lighting, bells and whistles, even the obligatory costume changes. The Dixie Chicks were strictly no-nonsense
during their two-hour concert Tuesday night at American Airlines Center, the final stop on the trio's high-profile Accidents
& Accusations Tour.
Even unpredictable mouthpiece Natalie Maines kept the proceedings free of any, well, inflammatory comments that could get
them in trouble all over again. Instead, they let the songs do the talking, particularly all the numbers from the new CD,
Taking the Long Way.
The explosive "Not Ready to Make Nice," essentially the Chicks' answer to the backlash stemming from Ms. Maines' controversial
anti-Bush remark three years ago, started without any spoken introduction. And as its chorus swelled, Ms. Maines sang with
fervent gusto, frequently shaking her head and stomping her foot. She was immersed in song.
The crowd roared its approval. It's obvious the venue was filled with supporters. They even cheered during a trailer for
the Chicks' theatrical documentary, Shut Up & Sing, which played over the video screen during the break, after
opener Pete Yorn finished his 30-minute set.
These women are full of feisty sarcasm. As they walked onstage, "Hail to the Chief" blared from the speakers. Nothing was
said about it. Nothing needed to be said.
The gig was seamless, blending cuts from all their major-label albums but concentrating most on the last three. The AAC
brimmed with fans, but more than a few empty seats were visible. Still, tour promoters AEG Live declared the concert sold
Musically, with a nine-piece band behind them, the Chicks proved they're now an ensemble that defies categorization. The
core remains country, of course, and on numbers such as the blistering bluegrass "White Trash Wedding" and "Lil' Jack Slade,"
then the steel-guitar-kissed, dreamy ballad "Cowboy Take Me Away" and the lovely acoustic gem "Landslide" (originated by Fleetwood
Mac), they earned their hillbilly credentials.
But Taking the Long Way gives them added sonic dimensions. "Lubbock or Leave It," the propulsive first song, rocked
with Southern abandon. "Neighbor," used in Shut Up & Sing but not yet released, was a rock-charged nugget. "The
Long Way Around" gloriously put them in Southern California pop-rock territory. "Easy Silence," dressed up with cello and
violins, was majestic pop.
Yet hearing "Travelin' Soldier," the first of three encore tunes, done with just bandmates Emily Robison on dobro and Martie
Maguire on fiddle while Ms. Maines strummed an acoustic guitar revealed the artistic heart. It's a melancholy song cushioned
by lush three-part harmony and a plaintive lead vocal performance.
No embellishment necessary. Ditto for the Dixie Chicks