Music, Not Controversy, Stars
By Aaron Beck
The so-called "controversy'' surrounding the Dixie Chicks -- the fallout of
a glib statement regarding President Bush, Texas, war and peace made in March in London by singer Natalie Maines -- essentially
is a dead issue.
But the band and a few right-leaning souls milling about outside the band's
recent sold-out "Top of the World'' concerts, including the one last night in Nationwide Arena, are refusing to tap that final
One of Us singer Joan Osborne, the opening act, was the first to broach the
subject: "Unless you've been living under a rock the past few months, you know what the Dixie Chicks have been going through.
Here's your chance to show them how you feel tonight.''
If the audience needed any more prodding, the coy public-address system playlist
between Osborne and the Chicks' sets included: (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding?, Our Lips Are Sealed
and Band on the Run and the not-so-subtle fist-pumping version of Born in the USA.
Commentary by the Chicks themselves was pushed aside for the moment until
after they and their expert eight-piece band had gorgeously replicated several songs from their first three major-label albums.
Rising from the center of an "in-the-round'' stage plopped in the middle of
the arena floor, Maines, fiddler Martie Maguire and Dobro and banjo player Emily Robison started the set with the rambunctious
Goodbye Earl, which deals with a subject more controversial than those comments in Great Britain: taking the law into one's
own hands and murdering a sinner.
What followed was 90 minutes of the best country-leaning pop music on the
road. Some Days You Gotta Dance bled into the pedal-steel-stoked lite-'70s rocking There's Your Trouble, which segued into
the superb death letter to "today's-hot-young-country'' country music, Long Time Gone, a tune from the new, superb all-acoustic
Another new one, Travelin' Soldier, said more about the Chicks' stance on
global affairs than anything Maines has or will say. Maines sang the song of a young love extinguished by war in an aching,
touchingly mournful voice.
Decked out in combat boots, scraps of plaid patchwork and black leather, and
garish street-punk makeup circa London 1977, these new-old-timey music makers suggested they were in a fightin' mood.
But Maines -- sporting a bizarre, fauxhawk pompadour -- and company stuck
mostly to the usual performer-addresses-the-audience pleasantries.
They didn't mention anything about the topic everyone knew they were going
to address until they'd played nine songs.
Before playing Patty Griffin's Truth No. 2, from Home, Maines said, "Back
before I put my size-five foot in mouth we didn't know if we wanted to put this next song on the album. But now we understand
every single word of this song.''
With that introduction, video of Gandhi, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.,
human-rights activists, Muhammad Ali and freedom-of-speech supporters and protesters and Beatles record burners and Dixie
Chicks CD smashers -- played on screens above the Chicks' heads. Maines sang the strident lines, "You don't like the sound
of the truth / coming from my mouth.''
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