Boston, MA 2003

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Chicks' Show Is On 'Top of the World'

Nancy Sheehan, Telegram & Gazette

Has the controversy over Natalie Maines' infamous remarks before a London audience more than three months ago finally subsided?

You do the math: At a Dixie Chicks performance at the FleetCenter Thursday night there were about a half-dozen protesters outside, holding anti-Chick placards near an entrance to the building. Inside, nearly 19,000 cheering fans clapped, danced and swayed the night away harmoniously with the harmonizing country superstars.

The crowd erupted into cheers as the lights went down and the Texas trio opened with "Goodbye Earl," about an abused wife's murderous revenge and a song which caused a fair amount of controversy when it was released about 3 years ago.

That simmered down, but then Maines piped up, fanning the pre-war tensions of early March by saying she was embarrassed that President Bush also hailed from Texas. A Texas-sized furor ensued.

Thursday night, Maines introduced "Truth No. 2," saying that at first she didn't get the lyrics of the Patty Griffin song, which starts with the line "You don't like the sound of the truth coming from my mouth." But over the course of the past few months, Maines said, she now "understands every single word of this song."

Dubbed the "Top of the World Tour," the jaunt is the Chicks' first since 2000's Fly Tour and crams visits to more than 50 cities into three months of touring, with the Boston show marking the midpoint.

Perhaps that explains Thursday's mostly black, hardware-studded costumes and lofty, mock-Mohawk hairstyles worn by Maines and Emily Robison. It was a punkish style reminiscent of "Road Warrior," and one assumes that the hard-touring Chicks feel rather like road warriors at the point. Robison's sister, Martie Maguire, sported a softened version of that postapocalyptic look.

But all that touring also has meant the show by now is in well-practiced high gear. There was not a flat moment in the whole two-hour performance, in spite of some early acoustical glitches. The Chicks' trademark harmonies soared on songs such as "Cowboy Take Me Away," "Travelin' Soldier," and "Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)."

Their pickin' also was kickin', especially the work of Robison on dobro and banjo, and Maguire on fiddle which she used to fire up Cajun interludes and bluegrass songs such as "L'il Jack Slade," an energetic salute to Maines' 2-year-old son.

But they didn't rely solely on their own fret-board finesse. For insurance, or perhaps just for fun, they brought along an amazingly talented and large road band that stretched or shrank to suit the song, numbering nine on some of them.

On the reflective "Top of the World," the Chicks' latest video release and the song after which the tour was named, Maguire was joined by two other fiddle players as well as a cellist forming that seldom-seen configuration, the country string quartet.

With the stage in the middle of the arena floor, the agile performers relied on a latticework of walkways and platforms to get some rotating face time with all parts of the audience. As Robison high-stepped it up one lighted pathway, Maines would dance her way over to another and Maguire would scoot to a third. It made for a lot of frenetic running around sometimes, but, with a show this polished and strong, it was a case of divide and conquer.

The Chicks were divided at the start of the show as well. To reach the center stage unannounced and, perhaps, unscathed, each was put in her own large box - resembling an overgrown rolling foot locker with anti-claustrophobic side vents - and wheeled to the stage door by security guards as the arena lights dimmed. They left on foot, flanked and hurried along by the same guards.

Singer-songwriter Joan Osborne opened for the first half of the tour. Teen sensation Michelle Branch was signed up for the second half and Boston was her first show of the stint. The fluid-voiced newcomer acquitted herself with a smoothness and confidence usually found in far more seasoned performers.
Dixie Chicks Arrive To Little Dissent, And Thrill Their Fans

By Steve Morse, Boston Globe

The protesters looked lonely last night. There were only about six of them, clustered out front of the FleetCenter and holding signs with messages such as ''Deport the Dixie Twits'' and ''Support President Bush and Our Troops.'' And nearby were a couple of people staging a counter-protest; one held a sign saying, ''God bless freedom of speech.''

The whole thing was very tame, even though Dixie Chick Martie Maguire later told the sold-out FleetCenter crowd that ''we heard a brawl broke out'' between the protesters and Chicks fans. A police officer said he had heard nothing about it, but it made for a provocative comment on stage. And it got more provocative when Maguire referenced the supposed brawl by saying, ''I think I would put my money down on your guys. . . . If there's one thing I've learned since March 10, it's that nobody tells you guys what to do.''

The Chicks are feeling feisty these days, having turned the corner from singer Natalie Maines's famous March comment in London that she was ''ashamed'' that the president was from their native Texas. The FleetCenter was electric last night -- with the crowd more keyed up than at any other show since the Stones opened their tour here last year. And the Chicks, carrying privacy issues to perhaps a new level, arrived by being wheeled to the in-the-round stage in closed packing crates, with security all around them. We kid you not.

Once launched, though, the concert was a blockbuster. The three Chicks -- Maines, Maguire, and Emily Robison -- gave it their all and overcame some sound glitches (which often happen with the in-the-round format, which only Neil Diamond has truly mastered) to achieve the catharsis that both band and fans needed. The ''incident,'' as Maines called it, was the backdrop for the song ''Truth No. 2,'' which had the freedom-of-speech verse ''You don't like the sound of truth coming from my voice'' and a video showing footage of civil rights and abortion rights marches, as well as the faces of Malcolm X and Mahatma Gandhi, and angry crowds stomping on records by the Beatles and Sinead O'Connor. It was a bit much, but the point was made.

The in-the-round stage had a 360-degree catwalk and staircases connecting several levels (for my money, the Chicks should go back to a traditional end-zone stage next time), but musically, the show was exceptional. The Chicks looked like cowpunks (with Maines in a punky hairdo and with chains dangling from her black pants), but the music was often pure country, from honky tonk (''Hello Mr. Heartache'') to bluegrass (''White Trash Wedding'' and ''Long Time Gone''). The two-hour show also expanded into to a country-rock treatment of Bob Dylan's ''Mississippi,'' a folk version of Stevie Nicks's ''Landslide,''

and a Celtic-flavored ''Ready to Run.'' The seven-piece backup band was excellent, and the Chicks' vocal harmonies were often celestial.

Pop singer Michelle Branch, in her first date on the tour, acquitted herself well. Although still a teenager, she showed uncommon poise, while her melodically deft songs suggested a possible arena star in the making.

Chicks Turn On Southern Charm 

By Sarah Rodman,
Boston Herald

The Dixie Chicks ruled the roost last night at the FleetCenter.

The country trio played a superb show in front of a sold out house of 17,000-plus faithful fans, some holding signs of support for lead singer Natalie Maines with messages like free speech.

A group of protesters outside the show exercised their right of free speech as well, holding signs that read ``Dixie Chicks for President of France.''

But if the controversy surrounding Maines' March comment about being ``ashamed that the President is from Texas'' is having any lingering effects on the trio, it wasn't evident on their beaming faces last night.

Maines, fiddler Martie Maguire and banjo/dobro-ist Emily Robison, backed by a sharp eight-man band and a string quartet, lifted their voices in heavenly harmony and picked their hearts out during a thrilling hour and 45-minute set.

Drawing songs from their three multiplatinum albums, the Chicks seemed to enjoy roaming around their elaborate stage set situated in the middle of the arena, with side extensions into the loge seats decked out in punk-chic outfits that looked like they were pinched from Gwen Stefani's closet.

Highs were many and varied from the stone country weeper ``Hello Mr. Heartache'' to pop crossover hits like ``Wide Open Spaces'' to fleet-fingered bluegrass picking fests like the instrumental ``Lil Jack Slade'' and the gentle lullaby ``Godspeed.'' All were highlighted by the Chicks' signature feathery harmonies.

Comic opener Goodbye Earl got the crowd out of their seats and singing along immediately. The breezy ``There's Your Trouble'' segued nicely into the back porch jaunt ``Long Time Gone'' which featured the first of many sizzling fiddle runs from Maguire.

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