Chicago, IL 2003

Martie Maguire
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photo by Mark Welsh / Daily Herald

Dixie Chicks Put Music First Here

By Bobby Reed, Chicago Sun Times

The Dixie Chicks clearly enjoyed performing for their admirers Thursday night at the United Center, but the air was thick with anticipation. Fans wondered how the band would respond to the controversy surrounding Maines' remarks about President Bush.

At a March 10 concert in London, Maines said the Texas-based band was "ashamed'' that the president is from Texas. This started a firestorm, provoking some country radio stations to ban the group's music.

In a May 2 cover story for Entertainment Weekly, Maguire stated that immediately after Maines made her comment onstage in London, Robison had told the crowd, "But you know we support the troops 100 percent.'' The Maines comment was reported around the world, but the Robison comment, made seconds later, was largely ignored.

At the United Center, the band addressed the controversy, a fierce debate that has pitted free speech advocates against those who question the band's patriotism, midway through the 22-song set. In her introduction to the Patty Griffin-penned "Truth No. 2,'' Maines said that when the band recorded the song, they didn't know exactly what it was about. She referred to the track as an example of "foreshadowing.''

Fueled by a loping melody, the group sang, "You don't like the sound of the truth/ Coming from my mouth/ You say that I lack the proof/ Well baby that might be so/ Tell me what's wrong with having a little faith/ In what you're feeling in your heart/ Why must we be so afraid/ And always so far apart.''

The song was accompanied by a video montage that depicted civil rights leaders such as Malcolm X, women's suffrage pioneers, gay rights protesters, and scenes of people burning books and destroying albums by the Beatles, Sinead O'Connor and the Dixie Chicks.

The gothic lettering of her large, faux gold necklace was difficult to read, but Maines appeared to be wearing jewelry that spelled out the word Bush.

The briskly paced concert included only slight pauses between songs. Accompanied by a 11-piece band, the Dixie Chicks were at their best when emphasizing the acoustic instrumentation featured on the "Home'' disc.

The penultimate song of the evening, another Griffin composition titled "Top of the World,'' paired Maguire's haunting violin coloration with staccato bursts from three other violinists and an insistent countermelody provided by a droning cello.

Other highlights included the Celtic-flavored romp of "Ready to Run,'' and the band's new single, "Godspeed (Sweet Dreams),'' a lovely ballad that was enhanced with a stage prop resembling a huge, leafy tree.

Opening the show was Joan Osborne, who, backed by a muscular quartet, belted out her own songs, such as the dramatic "St. Teresa,'' as well as galvanizing covers by Bob Dylan ("Make You Feel My Love'') and Dave Mason ("Only You Know and I Know'').
Chicks Show Woman Power
By Ted Cox, Daily Herald

The Dixie Chicks returned unrepentant to Chicago Thursday night. If they still have to answer to rednecks and country-music loyalists over their willingness to criticize President Bush, there wasn't a hint of standoffishness on the part of the sold-out United Center crowd.

From the opening "Goodbye Earl" on, this wasn't a display of girl power, as at a Spice Girls or Britney Spears show, so much as it was pure woman power. Oh, there were plenty of girls in the audience, but there were just as many adult women, who sang along word for word to most of the songs, often arm in arm with their friends.

As for the Chicks, they did an admirable job of trying to translate their back-porch bluegrass to arena rock. The trio's 20-song, 90-minute set, augmented with a two-song encore, was well-paced and evenly attentive to the in-the-round audience. If the fine subtleties of their music were largely lost in a setting like the UC, they made up for it with energy and a spirit of sheer fun.

Natalie Maines isn't a great singer like a Patsy Cline or a Lucinda Williams, but she has a big voice and a willingness to use it. She delivered her songs with conviction.

If Emily Robison's banjo and dobro sometimes got lost in the UC expanse, Martie Maguire's fiddle cut right through the crowd noise and reached into the rafters.

They made little reference to what they called "the incident," when Maines said they were ashamed to call George W. Bush a Texan at a London concert two months ago, except to draw special attention to the lyrics of "Truth # 2."

It showed that the Chicks' continuing conflicts with their more traditional and conservative fans may yet push their music in new and more daring directions. Chicagoans, however, will take them just as they are.

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