The mindset of popular country music fans is fascinating. Whether it be the opened-armed acceptance of pop and hip hop into its culture (even if it really doesn’t make much sense), to the basic truths of staying “humble and kind,” and loving God and nation, country music fans are an all-encompassing family. Unless one of the brothers or sisters goes against the grain. Then there is hell to pay — deserved or not.
There’s no need to rehash the tragic tale of the Dixie Chicks (and if you don’t know the story I wrote about it over a year ago…as did hundreds of other writers in the past decade) who apparently aren’t afforded the same set of First Amendment rights that certain country old-timers who overly criticize the current administration on a daily basis on social media. But that’s a story for another day…and to be honest, I really don’t care about politics…for me it’s all about the music.
Regardless, the sad takeaway from the Dixie Chicks controversy was that true American country music fans missed out on the potential of amazing music that could have been. During the trio’s hiatus, sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison released two fantastic albums as The Court Yard Hounds and embattled lead singer and guitar player Natalie Maines released a starkly different solo album Mother which showed another side of the iconic and “controversial” singer. While those albums were great, it wasn’t the Dixie Chicks.
Well, the good news is that the Dixie Chicks are back headlining shows in the U.S. for the first time in a decade. Those looking for Maines to “shoot off” at the mouth to either demonize or celebrate the singer are going to be mostly disappointed. Those looking to hear one of the finest country trios in the last 20 years will be ebullient seeing them do what they do best — perform.
The Chicks played Bristow, VA’s Jiffy Lube Live on June 25th and judging by the 20-plus thousand fans in attendance all were more than ready to make nice with one of the biggest selling country groups in recent memory.
As Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” blared over the speakers the crowd leapt to their feet, ready for the two hours of a greatest hits concert by The Chicks. Opening with “The Long Way Around” into the fiery “Lubbock or Leave It,” and the banjo and fiddle-laden “Truth No. 2,” it was clear the Dixie Chicks meant business.
The tender “Easy Silence” was up next and two songs later the crowd was joyfully swaying to “Some Days You Gotta Dance.”
Fan favorite “Long Time Gone” was followed by a haunting version of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” which went into a gorgeous version of “Top of the World.”
The first big sing-a-long moment came when they played “Goodbye Earl” which featured video clips of domestic abuse from classic films, mugshots of “popular” celebrities who abused women, and women who got revenge. (Disclosure, for those who saw the “salacious” post about the Dixie Chicks trolling The Donald with a photo of him on the big screen with a Hitler moustache and devil horns, this is when it happened in the set. It was on screen for a split second and…well…do some research).
At this point the Chicks and their dynamic band took a break which was actually fun due to the humorous computer animated/digitized video of the members of the Chicks in a muscle car race while a country instrumental version of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” played (I’m assuming they performed and recorded it…and it was awesome).
Shortly after, the Dixie Chicks and their band returned to the stage for an acoustic set which started with the heartbreaking pro-Vietnam soldier song “Traveling Soldier.” Yeah, they hate America. Not.
A Beyonce cover, “Daddy Lessons,” inspired by Howard Stern cohort (Maines is a huge Stern fan) Ronnie Mund, actually made sense and sounded great. “White Trash Wedding” was a blistering bluegrass moment of goodness.
The acoustic set came to an end with “Ready to Run” which sent confetti flying into the crowd while the big screen had cartoonish likenesses of all of the past and present candidates (from both sides of the aisle from the 2016 election) flying across the screen. It was lighthearted and just a perfect amount of deserved disrespect for the crybabies in both major parties.
After playing “Mississippi,” “Landslide,” and “Silent House,” they stepped it up with their most beloved songs. “Cowboy Take Me Away” was sublime, as was the transcendent “Wide Open Spaces.” “Sin Wagon” closed the set and had everyone grooving and singing about “mattress dancin’.” That’s right, I said mattress dancin’!
After everything the Dixie Chicks endured in the past 10 years, it was tremendous to hear them triumphantly play “Not Ready To Make Nice” to a crowd who were, and should have been over the controversy years ago. The packed house enthusiastically sang along to the poignant song.
To close out the night Maines said, “There’s a lot of hate in this world” referencing the horrible events in Orlando weeks ago. A giant rainbow heart appeared on the big screen as they ended their two-hour set with a cover of Ben Harper’s “Better Way.” This was a moment of unity and free expression, celebrating humanity.
In 2016, the Dixie Chicks do things their way. They are First Amendment and personal liberty heroes. Country fans may not always like their politics, but they are truly fighters of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Most importantly, they have recorded some of the most endearing songs in the modern country music era. It’s time for everyone to “just get over it” and embrace one of the finest country trios in American music history.