Saturday, July 22, 2006

CULTURE CITY EXTRA
NO. 2

THE DIXIS CHICKS SHOW IN DETROIT


all there Female fans came to back up th Chick now matter who talking werido think as last night review from the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press

Detroit News
Click here for Setlist and pic from the gig

Chicks' music drowns out their politics

Adam Graham / Detroit News Pop Music Writer

When the Dixie Chicks opened their North American tour Friday night at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, the question wasn't if they'd get political, it was how political would they get.

So when the Chicks came on stage to a march reminiscent of "Hail to the Chief," it seemed as though the crowd might be in for an evening full of full-on Bush-bashing.

That was hardly the case, however, as President Bush -- whom Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines infamously told a London audience she was ashamed to share the home state with in 2003 -- was never mentioned by name during the 115-minute show.

And for the most part, the Chicks let their music do the talking, and politics took a back seat to a rollicking evening of refined, down home country music courtesy of the Chicks -- Maines, guitar and banjo player Emily Robison and violin and fiddle player Martie Maguire -- and their nine-piece backing band.

(The band was also joined on stage and in the crowd by a team of cameras, who were filming the show for a documentary.)

Attendance figures weren't available, though there were plenty of seats available in the Joe's upper deck. The crowd was largely female and cut across a wide range of ages.

Opening with "Lubbock or Leave It" from their new album "Taking the Long Way," the Chicks -- dressed in black, except for Maguire, who wore black and white -- took the stage with confidence.

"Hello, Detroit! What better place to start our tour?" Maines said, greeting the audience after a run-through of the popular revenge fantasy "Goodbye Earl." "We're excited," she said, pausing for a few seconds to soak up the applause. "I forgot what this feels like."

Maines slipped a quick reference to the fallout from her comments -- or "The Incident," as its come to be known in the Chicks' universe -- while introducing the gentle, tender "Lullaby."

Maines explained it was the last song they wrote for the new album, and said during the record's recording they had a hard time writing love songs. "I'm not sure if you know, but we were mad as hell," Maines said.

The evening's most stirring moment came an hour into the show, during "Not Ready to Make Nice," the angriest song on their new album and the fiercest song they've ever written.

When Maines sang, "It turned my whole world around -- and I kind of like it" -- again, a reference to The Incident -- it was met with hearty cheers from the crowd.

But when Maines clenched her fists and beat them against her chest during the song's emotional climax, the audience's appreciative cheers grew to rapturous rallying cries of support.

If only Maines and her bandmates would have been that passionate the entire show.

Too often, the Chicks stood still at their microphones, their lack of stage presence a glaring contradiction to the emotional highs in their music. They loosened up show's end, however; chalk up the stiffness to first night nerves.

Maines' voice was in fine form throughout the 23-song show, which included a three song encore and closed with "I Hope," a song written for the victims of Hurricane Katrina which is almost gospel in its execution.

Detroit Free Press
Also have pix from the show
Click Here.

DIXIE CHICKS CONCERT: A girls' night out in Detroit

July 22, 2006

BY BRIAN McCOLLUM
FREE PRESS POP MUSIC WRITER

The Dixie Chicks arrived at Joe Louis Arena as a group still feeling its way toward a new identity.

By the end of their two-hour, tour-opening concert Friday night, the issue remained unsettled: Just where do the Dixie Chicks stand in the contemporary pop picture? And do even the Dixie Chicks know?

What was certain at the Joe, where the country trio kicked off a four-month North American run, is that three long years and abundant drama haven’t rubbed the shine off the Chicks' live performance abilities. Blending time-tested songs with new material that's still congealing, the trio delivered a multidimensional set that became more vibrant and confident as it rolled along.

Another big question was answered before the lights went down: No, the show didn't sell out. The Joe Louis audience, overwhelmingly female, was several thousand people shy of the venue's typical concert capacity of about 14,000 -- and down from the group’s quick sellouts in previous Detroit performances.

Reports of slow ticket sales had dogged the tour since seats went on sale last month, the presumed fallout of lingering controversy over the the Chicks' 2003 criticism of President Bush and war in Iraq, which prompted much of the country establishment to abandon the superstar group -- and prompted the group to stubbornly turn its back on the country establishment.

On hand Friday night was an unconventional mosaic of concertgoers, as denim-clad fans with Stetsons gathered amid obscenity-laced anti-Bush shirts and banners. When vocalist Natalie Maines asked first-time Dixie Chicks concertgoers to show themselves, at least half the audience raised its arms and roared.

The events of 2003, for better or worse, have become an inseparable part of the Dixie Chicks' reality. Friday night, the group addressed the controversy only indirectly. "I'm not sure if you know, but we were mad as hell," Maines joked while recounting the writing of the group's nervy new album, "Taking the Long Way."

It was in the songs from that record, sprinkled liberally throughout the set, that Maines, Emily Robison (banjo) and Martie Maguire (fiddle, mandolin) let their defiance slip through. Show opener "Lubbock or Leave It' was a direct strike on small-town rural America; "Taking the Long Way" pronounced the group's new life mantra; and the testy 'Not Ready to Make Nice" earned an extended ovation.

But it was the Chicks' older material that earned the best reception -- and found the group in top form. Backed by a tight but unobtrusive nine-man band, the trio crafted rich, animated renditions of songs such as "Cowboy Take Me Away," 'Wide Open Spaces" and the show-closing "Ready to Run,' steeped in big harmonies and tinged with just enough twang.

Still, even as the show gathered steam on its way to a three-song encore, there was a nagging sense that somehow the parts of the new Dixie Chicks puzzle are still trying to fit. The latest album succeeds as its own statement; in concert, the group's newfound earnestness makes an odd fit against the devil-may-care sauciness so fundamental to much of the threesome’s previous work. Hearing the rollicking "Goodbye Earl" next to the studied self-examination of "Taking the Long Way" can make you realize just how natural and effortless the Dixie Chicks' infectious sense of fun used to be.

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