Salt Lake City, UT 2003

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photo by Rick Egan / The Salt Lake Tribune

Slick Chicks Captivate SLC
By Dan Nailen, The Salt Lake Tribune

Any worries that the Dixie Chicks concert Wednesday would be affected by the controversy surrounding the war in Iraq were dashed about five minutes into the show.

That was the point when a packed Delta Center was signing along to "Goodbye Earl," the Chicks' song about a battered wife taking revenge on her abusive husband, and the source of their last public relations headache. By the end of that first song, the crowd was clearly on the Chicks' side.

"Goodbye Earl" was an ideal start for a show featuring the tricky combination of roots-based music and slick concert production values that would make U2 jealous. The song has the pop sensibility, brains, and a sense of humor that has made the Dixie Chicks the best-selling female band ever in any genre.

The Dixie Chicks entered the show in the middle of the arena, popping up on a mini elevator, through the stage floor. Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison immediately split apart to conquer different segments of the arena.

The evening spanned the Chicks' three albums, but the acoustic-fueled, bluegrass-flavored tunes from their latest album, "Home," ruled the night. Robison's banjo and Maguire's fiddle launched "Long Time Gone," an early highlight.

The evening really took flight mid-show when the band huddled in a tight circle for the honky-tonk stomp of "White Trash Wedding," followed by the Grammy-winning instrumental "Lil' Jack Slade."

Maines addressed the controversy that erupted when she told a British audience she was embarrassed that the President is from Texas. Referring to it simply as "the incident," Maines dismissed it quickly after hearing some mixed reaction.

"We like to assume the boos are because you're mad at what's happened to us, and the cheers are because you love us," Maines said.

While such technical bells and whistles as giant video screens tracking the Chicks' every move were impressive, the key to the show's success was the trio itself.

They are some serious players, and have the good sense to hire ace musicians to back them up.

Maines' lead vocals and Robison's and Maguire's harmonies rang clearly through the arena.

After 20 songs, the Dixie Chicks came back for two more.

The show-closing "Sin Wagon" was not only a rip-roaring finale, it was an invitation to keep following these Chicks that will be hard for anyone in the Delta Center Wednesday to turn down.

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