Here Come the Chicks
19,000 enjoy their freedom of expression
By Bill Ellis
Just like the Beatles in their
day, controversy hasn't diminished the popularity of the Dixie Chicks.
Case in point was Saturday's sold-out concert at The Pyramid. Some 19,000
people and nary a protester came to see the million-selling country trio, who have the year's third-highest grossing American
tour, according to concert source Pollstar.
And that despite the tremendous backlash - replete with radio playlist bannings
and CDs being destroyed - which followed an Iraqi conflict-related comment by member Natalie Maines, who voiced shame that
President Bush was from the band's state of Texas.
Fans don't all support said opinion; they, nonetheless, have exerted their
own right to hear the Chicks in concert.
Like most, Onna Newell, 43, of Memphis - who was colorfully dressed down in
honor of the group's tune White Trash Wedding - said she didn't necessarily appreciate what Maines had to say, but "they have
great music, and that should be all we're concerned about tonight."
Cindy VanMeter, 21, of Leitchfield, Ky., didn't agree with what Maines said
as well, but felt everybody has a right to free speech. Even though VanMeter and her cousin, Christina Decker, 22, bought
tickets before Maines made her comment, they never considered getting rid of them.
"I said I'm not giving them up - I'm going," said Decker.
Rod Good, 44, of West Alexandria, Ohio, also bought tickets pre-comment for
his family but had a different take: "Natalie made that statement later on, or I wouldn't be here, trust me."
Taking a silent stand were Connie Vaughan of Atoka, Tenn., and her husband
Steve, both 52, who wore matching American flag shirts.
"I want her (Maines) to know we support the troops," she said, noting that
she and her husband still planned on enjoying the show.
And enjoy the largely young and female crowd did.
Playing on an in-the-round stage that took up most of the arena floor but
gave everyone a good view, the Chicks - fiddler Martie Maguire, banjoist Emily Robison and lead singer/guitarist Maines -
embraced their commercially button-pushing image from the get-go: the opening song was good-time spouse-murdering hit Goodbye
Earl, as endearing a number about doing in an abusive husband as ever penned.
And there was no misinterpreting the tune Truth No. 2, which was accompanied
by a video montage of images from Martin Luther King and Malcolm X to clips of civil rights and gay and lesbian marches to
book burnings to slogans such as Tolerance. A roar of applause followed.
But that's the charm of the Chicks. The band is able to make country music
a relevant platform for ideas larger than conservative Nashville might like to address, and they do it in such a sweet, easeful
way - with exquisite high lonesome harmonies and mighty instrumental chops - that you can't resist.
Not to mention that their instinctual way with a song hook, as on Long Time
Gone and Sin Wagon (co-written by Memphian Stephony Smith), allows them to cross over to pop by expanding on their bluegrass
As for the trio's backup, the Chicks are no strangers to Bluff City musicians,
having recorded with drummer Greg Morrow in the past. On this tour, they employ steel guitar/dobro great Robby Turner, who
lent his gorgeous cascades of note-spinning to such tunes as Travelin' Soldier and Cowboy Take Me Away.
Teen star Michelle Branch opened the concert. With a pleasant cache of acoustic-strummed pop-rock riffs and ebullient melodies,
the popular newcomer - who played such catchy hits as Everywhere and current chart climber Are You Happy Now? - showed why
she is a Grammy winner at such a young age.
Return To Tour Dates/Reviews page
Return To Top Of The World Tour page