Review: The Dixie Chicks Make Triumphant Return to Dallas After a ‘Long Time Gone’
A number of questions hung in the air as the Dixie Chicks returned to Dallas, Texas, a city with which the band has a complicated history. Dallas is where the band first got its start, but the last time the Chicks were in town, they were the target of death threats, after lead singer Natalie Maines' controversial criticism of then-President George W. Bush at a 2003 performance in London, England.
As such, there were at least a few fans in the crowd at Friday night's (Aug. 5) show who were no doubt holding their breath for what could have been some awkward -- if not downright tense -- moments; after a "long time gone," though, that controversy couldn’t have been further from the minds of most of those assembled in the heat to watch the Chicks make their triumphant return. Tickets to the show had sold out in minutes, a fact that was evident upon seeing the thousands of bodies crammed together on blankets on the Gexa Energy Pavilion lawn.
As the crew assembled the Chicks’ simple stage setup, a sort of frenzied energy took over as the crowd held their smartphones in the air for the first glimpse of the Chicks' arrival. And when Maines and her bandmates, Emily Strayer (formerly Robison) and Martie Maguire, took the stage, the roar from the crowd was the definition of deafening. The trio opened their set with “Taking the Long Way,” a particularly apt introduction; the song may not have the raucous energy of the Chicks' more radio-friendly tracks, but it was an acknowledgment of sorts that they had returned home.
The brazen, almost frenetic energy that made the Chicks famous in the mid-'90s was more evident on their next track, “Lubbock or Leave It.” A searing slam of Maines’ hometown, it's the kind of song that you have to hear the Chicks perform live to fully appreciate. The anger, hurt and cynicism that grows out of being rejected by your own hometown is no more beautifully encapsulated than when Maines spits the lyrics into the mic while Maguire and Strayer shred their instruments alongside her.
The Chicks have made headlines for the covers that have been given a prominent place in their setlists during their current DCX MMXVI World Tour, and for good reason: A cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U” served as a fine, fitting tribute to Prince, complete with a purple backdrop emblazoned with the late pop star's iconic insignia. Also excellent was the Chicks’ take on a slew of Patty Griffin tunes, including the gritty “Don’t Let Me Die in Florida” and “Truth No. 2.”
Some of the band’s deeper cuts, such as “Easy Silence,” were also in the mix, a nod to the die-hard fans in the crowd who had no trouble singing along to every single line. Performances of “Long Time Gone” and “Goodbye Earl” reminded everyone why they’d fallen in love with the Chicks all those years ago: They are equally fearless and almost absurdly talented as musicians; whether or not you agree with their politics, there’s no disputing Maines, Strayer and Maguire’s respective places as some of the best musicians in the history of country music. Not to mention, they were joined by Maines' father, the inimitable Texas musician Lloyd Maines, whose twangy steel guitar riffs bolstered the assemblage of music legends on the stage.
That said, politics were noticeably absent from the Chicks stage show. Depictions of a devil-horned Donald Trump appeared on the stage's video screens at previous dates of the tour, but the closest the Chicks came to addressing politics was with the video montage that was projected as they ripped through “Ready to Run.” Politicians from all parties -- Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and of course, Trump -- were shown dressed up in clown masks. Maines herself chose only to address the oppressive Texas heat, deciding to stay out of the political fray in a city that has historically not been the most open-minded to her views.
Still, there’s no denying just how deeply engaged the Dallas crowd was with the Dixie Chicks: Tears streamed down cheeks, and people danced in the aisles and snapped selfies with the band in the background. During tracks such as “Goodbye Earl” and “Not Ready to Make Nice,” the latter of which came in the encore, it was easier to hear the crowd of 20,000 singing the lyrics than it was to hear the women on the stage. After 10 years away, the love for the Dixie Chicks is perhaps more fervent than it has been since the spunky trio first stormed onto the national stage.
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