I was in Dublin, Ireland last week to see the last stop on the Dixie Chicks European tour. In just under one month the trio will take to stages in America after nearly ten years away and it’s about time. Country music needs them! I need them!
My Irish beer was working overtime and I actually teared up when they blasted Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy just before taking the stage. I don’t know why I welled up but it was an awesome moment and I cried. Whatever. Let’s just get to it, I cried when they finally came out and started playing too. Part of it was being in Ireland watching my favorite band of all time, with my grown daughter who saw her first Chicks concert at the age of 10, but part of it was seeing the strength and determination that these women showed in coming back. Their story is a tough one and having them back made me feel happy and proud of them on so many levels.
For those that don’t remember in 2003, lead singer Natalie Maines made some pretty offensive (to some) comments about then President George W. being from Texas that were viewed as traitorous by country music loyalists. Their CDs were bulldozed and burned in the streets and they were threatened and shunned by almost anyone with a pulse in Nashville. Three years later they released their seventh studio album “Taking the Long Way,” produced by not so country Rick Rubin, and won five Grammy awards including Album of the Year, as well as Song of the Year and Record of the Year for their famous anthem Not Ready to Make Nice. Still, their touring days were seemingly over as the arenas didn’t respond quite like the recording industry did to their comeback.
Jump ahead nearly ten years and the Chicks are back. While they have been doing sold out shows in Europe here and there, this will be their first structured tour in the US since the kerfuffle and I hope we can all behave ourselves because these ladies, and this concert, are worth it!!
For the first hour, they covered a lot of tunes from Taking the Long Way including Easy Silence, Favorite Year and I Like It to the seriously ass-kicking Lubbock or Leave It. The classics were interspersed with Goodbye Earl (a crowd favorite in any country), White Trash Wedding and Sin Wagon revving up the crowds and Landslide, Top of the World and Travelin’ Soldier reminding us of their incredibly skillful musicianship. Behind them was a giant screen with imagery that was everything it needed to be. Ethereal and calming and then cutting edge, fast cars and cartoon presidential candidates. I guess we have to talk about that for a sec.
Not the kind to stand by quietly, they did take the opportunity to throw some deserving (yet lighthearted) shade on the circus that is the current race to the White House. Backed by Ready to Run, we were treated(?) to images of Donald, Hillary and their cohorts wearing clown wigs, red noses, hot dogs, flags, dancing campaign slogans, Dump Drumpf and all kinds of foolery followed by confetti cannons filling the stadium with red, white and blue. I loved everything about it. I’m curious to see if this bit jumps the pond with them. Pretty hilarious tongue in cheek commentary on the state of our situation. Maybe a little too soon for some.
I could go all night without cover songs but even their covers were perfection. To honor the recent passing of Prince, they chose Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares to You (written by Prince) and in Dublin, this was especially meaningful given that Sinead hails from Ireland. Halfway through the show, they brought the stage down to a smaller, more intimate setting and brought out an arsenal of instruments which they used to flip up Queen Bey’s Daddy Lessons from her recently released smash album Lemonade. A few days later Beyonce tweeted out a YouTube of the cover…I think she approved.
I could go on and on about the show (did I mention it was awesome) but what is important to note is that this trio has not released new music in over 10 years and they packed sold out shows across Europe and haven’t missed a beat. For over two hours they reminded us of their depth of talent as singers, songwriters, performers and musicians. As I sat in the audience with the very well-behaved Dubliners, I listened closer to their lyrics as an older adult and I felt a little more of what they went through and I was almost scared for them to come back. Our country is so full of hate right now that I genuinely feared for their return. Natalie may be feeling this a little as well. At one point she announced that they were hitting the road in America on June 1st and said she would really like to bring the Irish with her. Possibly alluding to an inkling of doubt that this whole thing might not work. I have faith that it will.
I can only hope that this music, that obviously transcends borders and boundaries can remind people in our country that we are free to say what we want, without persecution and that hate should never win. Rock On Chicks!!