Band Concert Review
The Dixie Chicks : Peace Love & Understanding... Reborn In the USA
The Dixie Chics United Center, Chicago, IL May 30, 2003
I'm sitting at my day job when the phone rang. I picked it up and it was my editor, the hard working lover of metal music Adam, asking me if I would be
attracted to the possibility of doing a review for the Dixie Chicks concert in Chicago, apparently press credentials for the show had been approved. I
laughed, smiled and said, "Will I need a bulletproof vest"? Needless to say, bulletproof vest or not, I was going. Why? Well, the Dixie Chicks first and
foremost are gifted musicians. I saw impressed with their NBC special from last Christmas and how well they could actually play them. This was not a mass
produced pop band or a one-hit wonder, but three girls who each add a different layer to their country sound. I'll give any true artist a chance at least one
time, to show me whether or not they have the goods.
So I made my way to the second of two sold out shows that the Dixie Chicks would be doing in Chicago at the United Center. I picked up my ticket at will call
and entered the arena. For those of you who have ever wondered who attends Dixie Chicks concert, I'll say this...women and more women and more women. It was
like Mary Kay convention with the makeup being replaced by cowboy boots and hats. The female to male ratio had to have been at least ten to one. I figured
that worse case scenario, it would be a night of eye candy, but it proved to be much more.
Once I got a look at the stage, I knew the crowd was in for a great show. The stage set up was "In The Round". For those of you who are unfamiliar with it,
the stage is set up in the middle of the arena for optimal viewing for all attendees. This stage was made famous by Def Leppard in their "Pour Some Sugar On
Me" video. Since then, Rod Stewart, Phil Collins and most recently Peter Gabriel have put the "In The Round Stage" to great use. There really is not a bad
seat in the entire house with this set up. I was given a seat, 10th row, right on the aisle. It was a perfect seat. Little did I know...a near perfect
evening would follow?
I watched opener Joan "One of Us" Osborne run through a quick, yet effective 35-minute set. As the crowd anticipated these three southern girls to take their
place on the stage, I could sense the power in the air. The crowd was an assortment of women, all ages. In front of me, there were a number of mid-30's
women, the row behind me, and a number of younger teen girls and as the show time came soon, three young ladies made their way past me. I started talking one
of them up. She asks me how to get into the "Chick Pit". I had no idea what she was talking about and she pointed to the pits within the stage already filled
with a large number of female fans. I said, "I'm sure you have to know someone". She took my comment as defeat, so I fired back, but I'm sure if you smile at
the right person you may find your way in. I point to where security was and she went up. Even though she did her best, she was unsuccessful. However, we had
amazing seats and I told her that she'd have a better time from the floor. The stage was one of the most luminous set ups I have ever seen. This stage is
designed to give every fan their best view possible so everyone could see the Chicks walk their walk and talk their talk.
This wicked world
Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity.
I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?
-(What's So Funny 'Bout)Peace, Love And Understanding
Elvis Costello's "Peace, Love & Understanding" kept on blaring from the speakers, coincidence? I think not. The Costello anthem kept on repeating time and
time again, like it was prepping the audience. I had seen singer-songwriter Jessie Mallin close out his electrifying solo set in Chicago a few weeks earlier
to this number. Something must be said about trying times and how the music of the past sometimes is the bifocals, which guide us out of a haze, so we can
see clearly. Nick Lowe's anthem, played with such heart and passion by Costello, was more than just a statement, but a template for the evening that would
Slowly but surely, the crowd became ecstatic at the sight of three large crates being pulled from the backstage area. Normally, this would have not really
brought any real applause at any other concerts, but this one reached a fever pitch because those three young Dixie's were in those crates. This was the only
safe way to get them to the stage for the performance. Shortly thereafter, the sound system went up about ten notches to a glaring volume. The song that was
blasting was Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA". It's no irony that this anti-war song blasted out of the speakers of the same arena Springsteen had
played 8 months earlier.
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up
Born in the U.S.A.
Half way through the song, a curtain dropped over the middle of the stage. As "Born In The USA" concluded, the house lights went out...and the three southern
women who have redefined country music were lifted from below the stage as "Earl's Gone" began what would become a 22 song, 2 hour show (the full set list
will appear at the end of this review.) Right from the beginning of the show until the very last note, this band seized the crowd's attention the same way
Bono demands attention when he enters the stage, it becomes more than a concert stage, it is a place of worship. This is a feat not easily achieved. In the
days of sky rocketing ticket prices I see way too many people who are not fans who have tickets to shows and they barely experience half of the show. The
downside to this is these people are largely unaware of the music these musicians have pierced from their souls for our digestion. Therefore, they go and
stand up for the two or three songs they have heard on the radio in passing. This was not the case at the United Center on this damp Friday May night. With
the exception of a few slow ballads, everyone stood in full attention and gave their all, just like the Chicks were doing for them, throughout the entire
With each and every song, Natalie Maines, Emily Robinson and Martie Maguire made their way around the stage so that each and every person could
say that they were up close and right in front of their country female superstars. The "In The Round" stage allowed the band to roam the stage with ease and
while one may be facing one side, another may make their rounds to the other side, so as to make sure that everyone had top tier seats and a great view. I
have great admiration for acts that choose to use this set up. It truly does give the fan the best possible view, even way up in the nosebleed seats. The
chick pits within the stage were also great, as the band moved in and out of them and gave everyone in them a opportunity to have a bird's eye view of the
festivities, usually reserved for guitar techs. Even more impressive, is that this was not Jon Bon Jovi shaking his ass in front of them, but three southern
women in full performance mode. The excitement in the pits was as visually awesome as seeing young girls lose control of their bodies, except instead of
having dropped jaws over male body parts, they were in awe at the intensity of music that was tugging at their hearts and minds.
We are living in times where fans are in a blind haze of one hit wonders so it surprises me, in 2003, a band like the Dixie Chicks can be commercially
successful and yet, still push the envelope when it comes to their music. What most impressed me over the course of this show was their music and it's
vastness. I'm not a country music fan, but have an appreciation for it. I have a feeling that my generation has lost a sense of what true country music
really is. Most people from my generation think of people like Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Kenny Rogers, etc. The true country music artists have their core
in the roots of country music...Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson and the Carter family whose legacy goes back to the 1920's. In August of 2001, a
friend and I were discussing what would win "Album of the Year" at the Grammy's. I was sure that Springsteen's "The Rising" would sweep them. He told me not
to be so quick because of Norah Jones (I agreed with him) and because of the new Dixie Chicks album. I immediately wrote him off. He told me "Tony give it a
listen and try not to make any preconceived notions when listening to it...it owes more to bluegrass than country. It's a stunning album all around" He was
right; "Home" is a stunning album full of 12 picturesque and cordial tracks that cross many musical borders and definitely one of the best albums released in
The material performed live off of "Home" also shined through like a comet in the sky. "Long Time Gone" kept the momentum of the show going and allowed the
show to nurture, breathe and show the girls and their backing band letting loose, "Travelin' Soldier" made you long for lost loves, "White Trash Wedding"
allowed the girls to take their shoes off and get dirty and show everyone they can rock out just as well as any other act out there on the road today. Opener
Joan Osborne even stepped out and joined in on "Am I The Only One", a upbeat number from their debut disc. Then the two beautiful ballads from the album
"Home", "Top of The World" and the remake of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" brought the attention of the crowd to the three women who voices soared, instruments
gave chills and evoked feelings of eeriness as everyone stood there not saying a word sulking in each and every lyric, breath and note the Chicks gave. Now,
they did make a few mentions to the chaos that ensured this past spring regarding comments about the President. They had some fun with it, talking about some
of the bad luck they had encountered on the road, which involved, broken toes, eye problems and even burning the skin on one's nose. They joked that the
President must have voodoo dolls of them that he is poking. After the brief mention, the band then played the mid-tempo number "Truth #2". The mid-tempo
number brought about great reaction from the crowd as each of the Chicks moved with across the stage interacting with the 18,000 in attendance.
Comin' from my mouth
You say that I lack the proof
Well baby that might be so
Tell me what's wrong with havin a little faith
In what you're feelin' in your heart
Why must we be so afraid
And always so far apart
In light of what has occurred this year, it's almost eerie to read these lyrics and realize they were written at least a year before the "incident" occurred.
Yet, despite all of the manic hoopla, not one person was heard booing. When I tell people I went to see the Dixie Chicks, the first thing they ask me is "Did
they get booed". I simply answer, "it was the opposite effect, it was as if nothing happened". This evening was not about criticizing anyone it was about
showing that these three Texan girls can rock with the best of them and it's no wonder that virtually 99% of their tour sold out the first day. If someone
was walking that line between being a fan or a non-fan, and went to see them live, they would instantly become a devotee. Much like Springsteen before them,
they craft their records with great care, yet the liveliness and passion defined during their two-hour performance did more than just rock my soul, it was
flat out inspirational seeing music I wouldn't normally listen to invade me and infect me. Not only did I love it, but also I'll be seeing this band
whenever I can find them. This is what people miss out when they only experience music through their headphones, they lose the communal feeling it can bring,
the truly awesome feeling when there are 18,000 people singing along to a song or the excitement of the crowd when a band launches into one of their biggest
hits; all of these things occurred when I saw the Dixie Chicks on that cool Chicago night. The Dixie Chicks have transcended across the country music
landscape into pop hearts, rock hearts and music hearts in general. Their devotion and conviction on that stage is nothing short of extraordinary. They
deserve every cent they earn on this tour and then some.
This show was more than just a first-rate show; it was a one of the most awe-inspiring shows I have ever witnessed. The Chicks gave their fans more than
anyone really could have hoped for. This is a band that has a total of three albums, but somehow they managed to perform a full 2-hour show, and include
twenty-two songs in the set list. I don't think John Mellencamp has performed twenty-two songs at ANY concert he has performed in the last decade. I see
dozens of concerts every year and while there is something I love about each and every one, the ones that stick out in my mind are the ones where the act
goes above and beyond my expectations and the crowd responds with reverence and exhilaration. I remember seeing Springsteen last Milwaukee come out for one
more song at the end of the show. It put the show from a great one to a legendary one. Tonight, this will go down maybe not as legendary but inspirational,
more so because I have a high expectation bar even those who reach it, rarely go beyond it. These three southern women blew my expectations out of the water.
Through troubled times My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
So where are the strong
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
-(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding
We live in a society where the media is over aware of their power over society as a whole. People are complaining about teens going in flocks to see teen
slasher films and the violence they are exposed to, but this is the same media who has devoted thousands of hours to coverage of Sadaam, Osama, snipers,
anthrax scares...essentially these people have done their best to make us live our lives in fear. That being said, I don't necessarily feel that Natalie
Maines presented her comments about the President in the best possible light. Sure, she probably should have been a little more elegiac, but then again, who
knew what would happen as a result of those comments? Now, the notion goes much deeper than that, but the fact that the Dixie Chicks were the lead off story
on the news during the first few weeks of March 2003 was preposterous. We were about to go to war, sending our fathers, sons, daughters and loved ones off to
fight for a country we all don't appreciate as much as we should. There were more pressing matters at hand and I felt the coverage was unnecessary and
un-American. To me, it does not matter what she said, but the fact that we all need a little peace, love and understanding when discussing politics, love,
and religion or whatever the topic is. I'd love to comment more on this, but recently, another musician with whom I have immense veneration, summed up what I
really wanted to say, better than I could ever word it.
"People come to my shows with many different kinds of political beliefs; I like that, we welcome all. There have been a lot of questions raised recently
about the forthrightness of our government. This playing with the truth has been a part of both the Republican and Democratic administrations in the past and
it is always wrong, never more so than when real lives are at stake. The question of whether we were mislead into the war in Iraq isn't a liberal or
conservative or republican or democratic question, it's an American one. Protecting the democracy that we ask our sons and daughters to die for is our
responsibility and our trust. Demanding accountability from our leaders is our job as citizens. It's the American way. So may the truth will out."
The Dixie Chicks are more than just a product to be sold to the masses; these three women are true and pure musicians with a message. Whether or not you want
to listen to it, is your choice, being an American. Whatever their political beliefs are does not really matter to me. What does matter is the inspirational
feeling I felt come over me during their two-hour performance. So where was the harmony on a cold and dreary night? It lied within the walls of the United
Center of Chicago it was there I found all of the harmony, sweet harmony that I needed.
Dixie Chicks Official Artist Club
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