Denver, CO 2003

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photo by Peter Lockley

Chicks A Lot Of Country At Pepsi Center
 
By Ed Will, Denver Post Staff Writer
 
President Who?

If there had been a presidential election at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday, the Dixie Chicks would have won by a landslide.

The Chicks, fiddle player Martie Maguire, banjo picker Emily Robison and vocalist Natalie Maines, won the audience over with a stellar performance that reminded people that the two sisters and Maines are the best thing going today in country music.

It certainly proved great fun to attend a country music concert and actually hear country music. That stands out as a rare occurrence these days with acts more attuned to pop and rock dominating country charts.

That's not to say the Chicks haven't had their share of crossover hits, but again Tuesday night they proved that their high-heeled boots are firmly planted in the tradition of country music.

The women have been performing at sold-out concerts since May 1 despite a boycott of their records by many country radio stations nationwide.

Some have even sponsored record-smashing events to protest Maines telling a London audience that the Chicks were "ashamed" President Bush was from their home state of Texas.

Still, their album "Home," which was released in August, remains in the Top 10 on the country charts.

Tuesday night's highlights included several songs off that album, especially "Truth No. 2," which includes the line, "You don't like the sound of truth coming from my mouth."

It was the 13th song of the night for the Chicks, and it wasn't until then that the "incident" - as Maines calls it - was mentioned.

Her introduction to the song brought forth prolonged cheers, but as the crowd quieted so she could speak, a smattering of "boos" came from the upper decks.

The loudest cheers of the night, to that point, cascaded over the Chicks.

"Those boos must be because you are mad about what happened to us and the cheers are because you love us," Maines said.

Maines' work at the Pepsi Center cemented her reputation as one of the best live performers around as she worked her way around the massive in-the-round stage with a fun, sexy energy, even displaying some movement reminiscent of Elvis.

Robison and Maguire also demonstrated their instrumental virtuosity as they worked through songs from all three Chicks albums, "Fly" "Wide Open Spaces" and "Home."

Among others, they performed "Long Time Gone," "'Hello Mr. Heartache," "White Trash Wedding," "Ready to Run," "Landslide" and of course "Goodbye Earl" and "Wide Open Spaces."

Dixie Chicks get their fans rockin'

Spunky trio mixes a little politics in with their music

By Sandra Fish, Camera Staff Writer

Chicks dig the Dixie Chicks.

That much was evident at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday night (OK, a lot of guys dig them, too).

But it was mostly women in cowboy hats, swingy skirts, skimpy tops who leaped to their feet when the trio from Texas took the stage.

The Chicks didn't disappoint, opening the elaborate show with the popular anti-domestic violence anthem "Goodbye Earl."

More hits followed as the three traipsed around a circular stage, with the crowd frequently singing along during the nearly two-hour performance. Lead singer Natalie Maines delighted fans when she ventured toward the arena crowd on catwalks. Fiddle player Martie Maguire and banjo player Emily Robison often played to the select crowd filling the gaps between the main stage and the circular walkway.

Elaborate videos, sets and lighting complemented the circular stage.

Maines demonstrated a range of emotions from the gentle touch of motherhood in "Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)" to the heartbreak of "Travelin' Soldier" to the frustration in "Am I the Only One (Who's Ever Felt This Way)."

Maguire and Robison are competent musicians in their own right and backed up by an eight-piece band, their old-timey sounds of fiddle, dobro, mandolin and banjo came across with a tightness especially evident in "White Trash Wedding" and the instrumental "Lil' Jack Slade." (When was the last time you heard an arena crowd cheering a fiddle solo?)

Of course, the "incident" had to be addressed.

Earlier this year, the Chicks went from singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl to being banned on some country channels when Maines told a London audience she was "ashamed" that President Bush hails from their home state of Texas.

The implications of that ban remain. While the Chicks played Denver, earlier in the day their manager was on Capitol Hill. He testified before a Senate committee that control of radio stations by a few large corporations could inhibit free speech when a corporation orders a ban like that of the Dixie Chicks.

"Tonight we're feeling a little extra sensitive," Maines said. "We've got a pep in our step and you'll never believe what gave us that --- C-SPAN. ... There's something about that Sen. John McCain."

Her speech drew some cheers and some boos from the crowd before she began the opening line of "Truth # 2:" "You don't like the sound of the truth coming from my mouth."

Politics out of the way, the Chicks returned to the country-rock that packed the Pepsi Center, culminating with their cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," "Ready to Run" and "Wide Open Spaces."

Outside the Pepsi Center before the show, objection to Maines' anti-Bush remark wasn't in evidence. But Denver residents Ann Livingston and Polly Furay said they benefited from the ire over the statement.

"We actually got our tickets as an act of protest," Livingston said. "Her parents gave us their tickets."

"I'm defying their protest by going to the show," Furay said. She said her parents live in Boulder.

And it isn't as if the Chicks weren't rebels before from the opening "Goodbye Earl" to the show-closing rocker "Sin Wagon" ("When it's my turn to march up to glory, I'm going to have one hell of a story"), the Chicks are plenty defiant.

In the end, those who came to hear the music never mind the politics were the ones rewarded Tuesday. For many fans, show-opener folksy rocker Michelle Branch offered a preliminary treat.

Slick Chicks Wow Pepsi Crowd

By Mark Brown, Rocky Mountain News

Let's talk about the Dixie Chicks. But for a change, let's talk about their music.

The trio has gotten caught up in so much political flak the past few months it has been easy to overlook that they're easily at the peak of their career. Their strongest album, Home, is a nearly flawless work, proof that modern country music can be slick and polished yet still be full of heart and soul and pay respect to its roots.

The Chicks reminded us of that fact Tuesday night, combining the best of Home with the best songs that came before that.

Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison blasted unrestrained enthusiasm from the very first song, Goodbye Earl. The crowd sang along as Maines belted out the song of revenge and accompanied it with a dirty, pumping bass line that rocked the rafters.

Those classics stood up perfectly with newer songs such as Long Time Gone, with all the women hitting all the sustained high notes with nary a care for the thin atmosphere.

The Dixie Chicks are smart in that they've never pigeonholed themselves. Rock, pop and soul influences are neatly dovetailed with folk, bluegrass and country, with no concern whether a song fits their image.

That found them covering Fleetwood Mac's Landslide as well as Bob Dylan's Mississippi in Tuesday night's rousing set, with guitarist David Grissom dropping a burning rock solo into Am I The Only One.

The songs are key: More than most artists, they realize it comes down to songs and won't tolerate any bad ones.

They marry that with the best technology money can buy; the in-the-round stage setup made for great sightlines and sound from nearly everywhere, with a meandering walkway that brought them close to fans and shimmered like a cool, flowing river.

The band wisely lets the music do most of the talking, though Maines can't resist speaking about "the incident" that made them a target of conservative ire. Her mention of it brought rousing cheers and a few boos.

"We like to assume the boos are because you're mad about what happened to us," Maines teased.

The funniest and most biting politics of the night, though, was the hilarious string of songs the Chicks had played over the PA before they came out - What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?, Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Our Lips are Sealed, Band on the Run and Good Girl Gone Bad, and culminating in a blasting version of Born in the USA.

Point made, and made very well.

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