Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
he Chicks still are definitely not ready to make nice. In fact, the trio is more than willing to lay it all out on the line to tell you exactly what they do think and feel.
A few years after the release of the acclaimed "Gaslighter," the band formerly known as The Dixie Chicks, is out on the hustings, heavily plugging their first new release in 14 years by playing 10 songs.
Now, that, too, is not an easy cache of music to easily digest because a number of songs are about the vituperative dissolution of lead singer Natalie Maines' marriage, starting with the title track, which was played early in the two-hour show and later with the ultra messy "Tights On My Boat" (one could only imagine what goes through the head of guitarist Slade Maines, who happens to be Natalie's son, each time the songs are played).
These are tough topics, but needless to say, Maines sings them with bite and emotion. Maines' vocals showed some signs of wear and tear (The Chicks had to put off three shows on the tour in recent weeks so she could get vocal rest) here and there not hitting a few notes.
But Maines' vocals soared as the night wore on, gaining strength.
Her Chicks' partners – sisters Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire – were in fine form throughout. With Robison on banjo and Maguire on fiddle, they kept the country quotient high especially on the gorgeous "Cowboy Take Me Away."
So did "Truth #2" with banjo and fiddle dominating. That song played into the family affair of the evening. Violet Strayer, Emily's daughter, rolled a huge dye to pick which of six songs the group would play. Later, during "For Her," Martie's daughter, Emilie, came out at the end for a triple fiddle attack.
From a musical standpoint, an eight-song acoustic segment where The Chicks and their backing sextet were all at the front of the stage hit the sweet spot. The lovely "Cowboy Take Me Away" launched the segment with highlights including "Long Time Gone," Fleetwood Mac's beautiful sounding "Landslide" with the crowd heartily singing along and the hoedown of "White Trash Wedding."
As for the political, that came through both via the songs and backing video screens. Perhaps never more so than on "March March." The song talks on being an army of one against societal ills – mentioning gun control, school safety and lots more. Maines delivered the message with ultra intensity, in effect, sending out a call to arms to do something about it. The song ended with women on the video holding up signs, including "Keep your laws off our bodies." The Chicks received a well-deserved prolonged applause from the overwhelmingly female crowd.
With Maines announcing that The Chicks had one more "piece of business" to take care of, they went after abusive relationships with the jaunty "Goodbye Earl," although the song and its playful sing-along melody it ends in murder.
The Chicks, of course, lost country radio play a long time ago and suffered for it. But more importantly, The Chicks still have a lot to say and aren't afraid to say so.
Veteran singer/songwriter Patty Griffin opened the show with a convincing eight-song set. Historically, these are not the type of venues that Griffin performs, but accompanied only by an acoustic guitarist, Griffin more than filled the stage.
Griffin displayed musical dexterity covering a number of styles including jazz, blues and Americana. Griffin, who later performed with The Chicks on her "Don't Let Me Die in Florida ," has big supporters in The Chicks, who have covered at least three of her songs. It was easy to see why.