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With the controversy old news, the Dixie Chicks deserve to be on top of the world

Fleet Center, Boston, June 19, 2003

By Jeffrey B. Remz

BOSTON - The Dixie Chicks lately may have become better known for the infamous comment of lead singer Natalie Maines while in London in March slamming President George W. Bush, but during their Top of the World concert tour, the question must become whether this trio can continue to live up to their acclaim.

The answer pretty much is a resounding yes. The Chicks - Maines and sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire - are touring off the mega-selling "Home" album, which has sold about 6 million since its release in August 2001.

At the focal point is a slimmed down Maines. She always has benefited from having a powerful voice, and that was once again the case from the get go with the lead off, kiss off song "Goodbye Earl," about a woman taking domestic abuse into her own deadly hands. During the 100-minute stage-in-the-round show including encore, the Chicks played songs from their last three albums. And musically they mixed it up as well focusing on the bluegrass, home porch type songs of "Home" to some more revved up songs and some dyed in the wool traditional country ("Hello Mr. Heartache")

At one point, Maines and Robison did a two-step while their compadre fiddled away.

Maines had no problems whatever with the style. Her voice was supple and full of energy throughout. She turned in a good performance as well on a Bob Dylan tune penned for Sheryl Crow, which had a swampy feel.

Often helping on backing vocals were Maguire and Robison. They usually brought more depth to the song.

The Chicks also benefited from a very strong eight-piece backing band including Brent Truett on mandolin and Robby Turner, a stalwart on steel. At times, a string quartet was added, though never as effectively as on "Top of the World."

These Chicks were not the chattiest, never particularly joked around, but what they said seemed heartfelt.

Yes they did make a reference to the March 10 comments of Maines, but saying that made them realize the importance of the words in "Truth No. 2." But the controversy ought to be old news soon enough.

Though the show was there musically, the staging left something to be desired. The band is employing a huge stage with the band in the middle and the Chicks generally moving around the outside to different parts of it. But the problem was that their backs were often to a chunk of the crowd. This also caused a gap in connecting with the audience. And the concert could easily have been longer with "I Can Love You Better" and "Tonight the Heartache's On Me" among the songs not played.

The Chicks clearly overcome their spate of controversy from earlier this year. When they focus on the music, they show why they deserve to be on top of the world.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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