Greenville, S.C. 2003

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Dixie Chicks Soar With Tour Launch

Craig Shelburne,
GREENVILLE, S.C. -- It appears that we can all go back to liking the Dixie Chicks again.

At the first stop of their Top of the World tour, there were precisely seven protesters in the assigned grassy knoll in front of the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, S.C., on Thursday (May 1). Further down the sidewalk, dozens other people displayed their posters in support of Natalie Maines, President Bush and the United States -- sometimes, all on the same sign.

Certainly, the controversy of Maines' infamous remarks before a London audience almost two months ago threatened to overshadow the Texas trio's return to their homeland. However, the Chicks have apparently maintained their sense of humor despite the adversity, even daring to play the Tammy Wynette classic "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad" on the arena's sound system just before they took the stage.

The eager arena -- officially sold out and with only a handful of vacant seats -- erupted in screams at the first strains of the opening song, "Goodbye Earl." As animated frying pans frolicked across the giant screens, everybody leapt to their feet.

"They said you might not come, but we knew you would!" Maines shouted after the third song.

"If you want to boo us, we welcome that, because we love freedom of speech," she said. Then the Chicks counted down to three, just to give the naysayers in the audience a 15-second window of opportunity. If there were any boos, they could not be heard over the huge applause.

Throughout the rest of the 20-song set, the Chicks scarcely chatted at all. Martie Maguire spoke only once, to introduce a film spoof about the back-up band. During a long stretch of songs, Maines took off her Michael Jackson-esque white jacket to reveal a black shirt that said "Dare to Be Free." She also wore her hair in that weird, Max Headroom helmet-head style, along with a short black skirt with chains.

Finally, an hour into the set, Maines said, "I thought about not wearing this skirt, because I knew I had to sit down. But then I thought, half of you have seen me naked anyway" -- presumably referring to the recent Entertainment Weekly cover featuring all three Chicks in the nude with epithets scrawled across their bodies.

In the night's most provocative move, Maines introduced "Truth No. 2," admitting that she didn't get the lyrics of the Patty Griffin song at first. But over the course of the past few months, Maines said she now understands it perfectly.

The song's lyrics include this line: "You don't like the sound of the truth coming from my mouth." Above the stage, footage of the civil rights movement, suffrage, bra burning, pro-choice rallies and gay-rights marches flickered slowly. And for those who missed the point, the Chicks also included reels of people stomping on records from the Beatles, Sinead O'Connor -- and yes, even their own albums. The live performance was remarkable, but the audience was perhaps too stunned to react with the typically boisterous cheering.

In fact, a few people got up shortly thereafter, but for a whole different reason. They wanted to dance to the hit "If I Fall You're Going Down With Me," which showcases what a terrific and talented vocalist Maines can be. It doesn't hurt to have Maguire on fiddle or Emily Robison on Dobro either -- and their road band was darn near perfect.

Following a Bob Dylan cover ("Mississippi") and "Cowboy Take Me Away," Robison saluted the mothers in the audience with "Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)." A few cute stage tricks came and went, but none of it overshadowed their musicianship or their natural comfort on stage.

After completing their first 20 songs, the Chicks returned after a breather to announce that the president had declared an end to the war in Iraq. The place went crazy, and then Maines opened her mouth and took a breath. More than a few hearts stopped. But rather than any disparaging remarks, she merely suggested that she felt like celebrating with a few more songs. (Whew.)

With beaming grins after the romp of "Sin Wagon," all three Chicks circled the stage, happily waving and looking extremely relieved. Judging by the wild applause, country fans were glad to have them back home.

Joan Osborne opened the show, mixing up-tempo songs from her 1995 album Relish (with the hit "One of Us"), as well as soulful tunes to her 2002 project How Sweet It Is. She also tossed in a Bob Dylan song, "To Make You Feel My Love." Though she turned in a fine performance, she must have temporarily forgotten it was a country show, because she didn't say "How y'all doin' Greenville!" until after the second song!

The Chicks' Top of the World tour concludes Aug. 4 in Nashville.


"Goodbye Earl"
"Some Days You Gotta Dance"
"There's Your Trouble"
"Long Time Gone"
"Tortured, Tangled Hearts"
"Travelin' Soldier"
"Am I The Only One (Who's Ever Felt This Way)"
"Hello Mr. Heartache"
"Cold Day in July"
"White Trash Wedding"
"Lil Jack Slade"
"A Home"
"Truth No. 2"
"If I Fall You're Going Down With Me"
"Cowboy Take Me Away"
"Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)"
"Ready to Run"
"Wide Open Spaces"

"Top of the World"
"Sin Wagon"
Chicks Hatch Sassy Show To Launch Tour

Greenville News 

The Dixie Chicks gave a performance full of sass and vinegar Thursday night on the first show of their Top of the World Tour at the Bi-Lo Center.

The performance was heavy on songs from the Texas trio's latest release, "Home," garnished with plenty of twang.

Rising from a platform to the top of the in-the-round stage, the Chicks opened with their 2000 hit, "Goodbye Earl," the song about an abusive husband killed by black-eyed peas. And it was soon apparent that the show was going to be more about music than politics.

Soon, the Chicks were singing about "loosening up those chains" on "Some Days You Gotta Dance," and they seemed to take the words literally, as did the crowd of around 15,000. The audience danced, cheered and sang along throughout the 105-minute, 22-song concert.

Indeed, the Dixie Chicks gave a much looser, sassier performance than the last time they played Greenville, in September 2000 on the "Fly" tour. The three women grinned through much of the performance, and lead singer Natalie Maines, sporting a "Dare to Be Free" T-shirt, danced and twirled through many of the tunes.

Sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison were rarely without their instruments, Maguire usually on fiddle or mandolin, Robison plucking the banjo and National steel guitar. At one point, Maines and Robison playfully waltzed together for a moment.

The set included a harmony-drenched version of "Travelin' Soldier," complete with pipe-and-drums coda, a country rave-up version of Bob Dylan's waltz-time song "Mississippi," and a moody, starlit rendition of their hit Fleetwood Mac cover, "Landslide."

But some of the biggest cheers were heard for the songs with the most attitude, numbers like the honky-tonking "Hello Mr. Heartache," the bluegrass-tinged "White Trash Wedding" and the mischievously naughty show closer, "Sin Wagon."

The trio brought along a few props to help set the mood for some of the songs, including reedy plants ringing the stage for "Mississippi" and an old-fashioned windmill for "Wide Open Spaces."

But the audience, which passed the time before the Chicks' appearance by doing the Wave, seemed to have their own mood in mind. They, too, seemed ready to loosen up the chains and dance.
Politics Is In The Air As Dixie Chicks Open Tour In S.C.

By Brian Mansfield,

GREENVILLE, S.C. Jim Doyle drove down from Prudenville, Mich., to see what all the fuss was about.

"I got tickets for their concert up in Michigan," said Doyle, 53, who was wearing a pale blue T-shirt embroidered "Chicks Rule." "But when I heard about all the fuss, I had to come down."

But if Doyle expected to find any fuss before the show, where extensive protests had been expected, he was doomed to disappointment.

Demonstrators for and against the Dixie Chicks outside the Bi-Lo Center were outnumbered by media and by security. At 6:30, an hour before the arena's doors opened, the "grassy knoll" reserved for demonstrations was populated by six protesters, 10 security personnel and 25 reporters.

The venue's security precautions included bomb-sniffing dogs and a full lockdown of the building. Anyone who came in or out, including crew, arena employees and even Chicks singer Natalie Maines on one occasion, was compelled to go through a metal detector.

As it turned out, the sold-out, 15,000-strong crowd was rabidly enthusiastic and the protesters were few. Building manager Ed Rubinstein said, "The best sign I saw out there said 'Duh.' "

Nancy Capps, 27, from Laurens, S.C., carried a "Natalie Doesn't Speak for This Dixie Chick" sign. "I have nothing against what they said, exactly. But to say it in a time of war to a foreign audience was over the line," she said.

But Ashlynn Landreth, 7, from Hendersonville, S.C., carried a sign reading "My Dad Is a Soldier. I Support Him and I Support You."

An anti-Chicks concert in Spartanburg, S.C., starring the Marshall Tucker Band drew 2,000 people, according to Steve Moore, promoter of the Chicks' Greenville show. Rubinstein said, "That's really turned out to be a blessing for us," adding that it likely drew away the people most likely to cause a scene.

The Chicks opened the show with Goodbye Earl, an upbeat ditty about spousal abuse and retaliatory murder, but said nothing to the audience until after the third song, There's Your Trouble. Maines said, "Hello, y'all. They said you might not come out, but we knew you would because we have the greatest fans in the whole world."

Then, although no unfriendly crowd response was audible, she added, "Oh, wait, I hear some boos. ... We welcome this because we welcome freedom of speech. So we're gonna give you 15 seconds to get whatever you have out of your system. So on the count of three, you can start to boo."

If anyone booed, the cheers drowned them out.

Any message the group wished to convey seemed clearer in their choice of pre-show music. After songs by two musicians who had supported them, Elvis Costello's (What's So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding and Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA, the sequence ran: Everybody Wants to Rule the World (by Tears for Fears), Our Lips Are Sealed (The Go-Go's), Band on the Run (Wings) and Tammy Wynette's Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad. (Related item: Lipton ices some Chicks promos.)

As for the show's encore, Maines came back on stage and said she'd just been told backstage that President Bush had announced the war was over. (Bush spoke to a national TV audience from the deck of an aircraft carrier.)

"It seems a little strange to keep playing songs, but I guess we'll celebrate," Maines said. She and the Chicks then went on to finish the show with Top of the World and Sin Wagon.

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