Tampa, FL 2003

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Tampa Fans Welcome Dixie Chicks Warmly

By Jennifer Barrs,
Tampa Tribune

TAMPA - Did somebody say protest - or pep rally? OK, so a few folks cloistered on one corner across from the St. Pete Times Forum expressed disdain for the Dixie Chicks. But the dominant mood at Monday night's concert was giddy, post-Super Bowl-like glee. Throughout, the crowd cheered instead of jeered the Texas troubadours who came under fire for criticizing the president.

Indeed, lead singer Natalie Maines' only reference to her comment, made in London March 10, was: "I get nervous talking 'cause talking gets me in trouble." She then introduced "Truth No. 9," its subtleties centered on the fight for human rights, with a note about "understanding every word."

But such patter was at a premium, as the best-selling trio serenaded the crowd of 18,045. And if you thought the political spotlight might soften their spunk, think again. The women opened with their hit "Goodbye Earl." You know, that little giddyap ditty about a woman who kills her abusive spouse with poisoned peas.

So much for backing off the sass, or the country-inspired class.

Because despite the Chicks' tendency to push lyrical, gutsy-gal boundaries in tunes such as the encore "Sin Wagon," there remains an undercurrent of respect for Nashville and its instrumental traditions. Specifically, sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire are world-class musicians on banjo, dobro and fiddle.

From tunes such as the rip-roaring "Long Time Gone" to the melancholy "Travelin' Soldier" to the exhausting "White Trash Wedding" and "Ready to Run," Robison and Maguire lighted up the stage, an in-the-round affair encircled by an elaborate, lighted walkway and a crowd of captivated fans. Meanwhile, Maines' flamboyant vocals lifted the group's honey-sweet harmonies to mesmerizing heights.

Frankly, if you can listen to the womanly wail of "Cold Day in July" or the tender brilliance of "A Home" and not be moved by these women's powerful talent, regardless of their politics, you aren't listening.

Blues-rocker Joan Osbourne opened the show, demonstrating that her talent goes far beyond her 1995 hit, "One of Us." Killer covers such as "Love's in Need of Love Today" and "Only You and I Know" off her latest CD showcased a soulful cat. So, too, did the mystical "St. Teresa" off her second disc, "Relish."

Before the concert, about 20 protesters held signs that encouraged the band to "go perform in China without masks," nicknaming them the "Dixie Tricks" and "Dixie Twits."

Among them was Jeanette Planchard, 37, of Zephyrhills who waved a toilet seat. Inside the seat, she had pasted a torn-up copy of the Chicks' "Fly" CD. Written on the lid: "Here's Your Career."

Planchard said Maines' statement, that the Chicks were ashamed President Bush was from their Texas home, was disrespectful to her brother-in-law and two cousins in the military, who are in Iraq.

"Everyone's got a right to say what they want, but come on, not when we're at war," she said. "They need to fly on out of here if they're that doggone unhappy."

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