It was 3:00 in the afternoon yesterday when my boss asked me if I wanted to go see the Dixie Chicks. The show started at 7:30. Sure, why not? This indie rock musician wouldn't mind seeing a BIG show for a change.
You see, one of our customers is involved with the tour, and he called to see if anybody wanted to check it out. Nearly none of my coworkers were interested. While not a fan of their songs, I do have a respect for the Chicks on a musical level and on a political level. I was curious to see how Columbus, Ohio would react to those spunky ladies. Will there be protests and CD burning? Will they address their naysayers from the stage, or make some comments about as-yet-to-be-found Weapons of Mass Destruction? Accompanied by another curious co-worker, we headed down to Nationwide Arena to find out.
We picked up our tickets at Will Call. Fourth row on the floor, and VIP passes. Did we really deserve this? I can barely recite 5 Dixie Chicks songs, let alone their names (Natalie, the blonde one, and the brunette). We toyed with 1) selling our tickets and passes for lots of cash, and 2) finding a couple with shitty seats and trading tickets. But we were there as guests, and didn't feel comfortable with either scenario. We headed down to the pit... the stage was at the center of the arena, and the floor seating split between the east and west sides of the stage. We were directly in front of a long ramp, so we knew we'd have a good view for much of the show.
After a short set from Joan Osborne, we were assaulted by a short video compilation of young girls doing Dixie Chicks Karaoke (brought to us by Lipton). Cute. This is when things started to get interesting. The music over the PA consisted of clever songs that most likely went right over the heads of most Chick fans.
- What's So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding? - The Nick Lowe-penned classic performed by Elvis Costello. Indeed, what is so funny about that... shouldn't it be called "What's So Bad About Free Speech?"
- Everybody Wants to Rule The World - Ok, I get it... but what is this song REALLY about? I never really GOT it.
- Our Lips Are Sealed - The first verse of the Go-Gos classic put it nicely: "Do you hear them? / They talk about us / Telling lies, well that's no surprise." But why should their lips be sealed? Are they caving into their critics?
- Band On The Run - Another one of those songs where the title means more to the Chicks' circumstance than the actual content.
- Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad - Tammy Wynette's classic.
- Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin) - Sly and The Family Stone's unmistakable groove, included here as a message from Natalie Maines. It got the country girls dancing. Only a short segment of this song was played, before...
- Born In The USA - Another misinterpration of this dark story of a Vietnam vet's experiences after returning home. But a nice declaration of patriotism before the ladies took the stage..
By this time we were surrounded by adoring fans. The Dixie Chicks appeared to the sound of screaming fans, and played a rousing rendition of "Goodbye Earl." And the hits came, one right after another. The audience sang along, babies were brought to the front so the Chicks could wave at them (annoint them?), and the focus was squarely on entertainment. I swear, the non-Natalie Chicks never stopped SMILING. The crowd loved them.
Musically, the highpoints were the bluegrass numbers. They have a damn good band, and the Chicks are pretty damn talented too. The blonde non-Natalie is a very good fiddle player, the brunette equally talented on banjo, dobro, mandolin, or guitar. And Natalie can certainly sing her heart out.
There were only a couple references to their recent troubles. When talking about how accident-prone they were lately (broken toe, third degree burns, and a lost voice), the non-Natalie blonde said she imagined President Bush sitting in the Oval Office sticking pins in voodoo dolls.
At another point, Natalie introduced the Patty Griffin-penned "Truth No. 2," saying that when she recorded it, she liked it but didn't really understand the song. "After I put my foot in my mouth... I knew what every word meant."
You don't like the sound of the truth
Comin' from my mouth
You say that I lack the proof
Well baby that might be so
I might get to the end of my line
Find out everyone was lying
I don't think that I'm afraid anymore
Say that I would rather die trying
I wanted to tell Natalie to stop apologizing for her words. I think the lyrics don't apologize, but statements like "I put my foot in my mouth" ARE apologetic. I know your album sales took a dive, and your "
I realize that the country music business is a very conservative one. I know that your fans paid to hear and see you perform your hits. But part of me wanted to see you address the issue again... take the oppurtunity to question Bush's more recent actions. Where are the WOMDs? Is Iran next, or Syria? How about informing your audience about Bill Pryor's upcoming confirmation hearings?
The show ended with streamers and confetti showering down on us. We left the crowded arena, and as "Wide Open Spaces" echoed in my head, I realized that the Dixie Chicks' pop numbers sound frightingly like Wilson Phillips.