Moline, IL 2003

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Dixie Chicks Rock The Mark In Good Ol' American Style

By Sean Leary
Quad Cities Online

MOLINE -- Say what you want to about the Dixie Chicks, you can't accuse the band of not having guts -- or a sense of ironic humor.

Embroiled in a free speech battle and lambasted by the radical right, the trio took the stage at The Mark of the Quad Cities Wednesday night to the strains of Bruce Springsteen's ``Born in the U.S.A.'' It was a clever statement of rebellion and an appropriate kick-off for a powerful night of distinctly American music, grit and attitude.

Almost 11,000 fans packed into the sold-out Moline arena to shower the Texans with cheers. In turn they were rewarded with an electrifying two-hour performance.

Hearkening back to its last controversy, the Chicks opened with ``Goodbye Earl,'' the killer foot-stomper about a murderous abused wife. The playfully poisonous hit rustled the audience up to their feet, where they remained for most of the night.

And despite several strong comments by singer Natalie Maines, there wasn't a ``boo' to be heard all evening.

Three songs in, Maines acknowledged the ruckus caused by her recent criticism of George W. Bush and the rumored boycotts of the act's latest tour.

``They said you might not come...'' Maines began, and while I'd love to quote the rest of her statement, I can't because it was cut off by deafening applause.

Even the most single-minded Chicks-hater would've been swayed by the band's energy and presence, and even the most venom-packed critic would've felt ashamed at any anti-American slams hurled after hearing the band's heart-breakingly earnest take on the transcendent hit, ``Travelin' Soldier.''

The song, undeniably one of the best releases of 2003, offered a touching, magical moment. Tearful notes dripped from Emily Robison's guitar as Maines' mournful voice was held aloft by Martie Seidel's foreboding fiddle and haloed by a chorus of thousands.

A boozy stagger punched up the lonesome swing of ``Hello Mr. Heartache,'' a song that has ``closing time at the roadhouse'' scrawled all over it. Smooth, sweet vocal harmonies slicked the path for the sliding bluegrass rhythms of ``White Trash Wedding.'' And jangly banjo and guitar picking skittered about squalling backwoods fiddle on ``Lil' Jack Slade.''

Wrapped in a sexy, skin-tight pink tank top emblazoned with the phrase ``Peace, Not Violence,'' Maines confronted her sizzling situation head-on in a number of subtle and not-so-subtle jabs.

``I don't know if you've heard, but there's been a lot of crazy stuff going on with us over the last couple months,'' she purred, coyly. ``But after that I can honestly say we really understand every single word to this song.''

The group then jumped into a cutting cover of Patty Griffin's ``Truth #2'' that packed a dry, sarcastic punch.

On a lighter note, the peppy ``Cowboy Take Me Away'' revved up the cowgirls in the audience and ``Ready To Run'' kept the tempo flying and the fans dancing.

The show closed with a raw, rocking ``Sin Wagon'' that whipped the crowd into a frenzy and sent fans home with a boisterous buzz.

In various incarnations, the Chicks have been around for close to 15 years, and it's been eight since Maines joined up and helped catapult them to mega-platinum success. The band members have obviously been through enough hard and heavenly moments to have gained the strength to deal with anything that might be thrown in their path.

However, aside from any controversy, the one thing that will keep them on top is the terrific combination of talent and charisma that enthralled the throng at The Mark Wednesday night.

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