Dixie Chicks fly
Remember when the Dixie Chicks weren't a political band at all? Remember when they were just a trio of telegenic babes whose toothy grins and surprising stringed-instrument prowess stood to make them one of the only new(ish) country acts to score clear crossover pop success? Remember when their only hint at a girl-power ethos was churning out feisty anthems like Goodbye Earl?
Those days are clearly behind them. Judging from the massive full-stadium roars that greeted both a preshow trailer for Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck's Chicks flick Shut Up & Sing and every anti-Bushism lead singer Natalie Maines uttered Saturday, October 28, at the Air Canada Centre, the Dixie Chicks really have become inadvertent revolutionaries for a certain demographic.
That demographic would be a curious cross-section of Caucasian females, from brace-faced preteens sporting straightened hair and various shades of glittery pink to their grown-up equivalent, powder-pink-cowgirl-hat-wearing bachelorette-party 30-somethings. Oh, and a handful of buttoned-down dykes on dates, all of whom elevated the energy in the ACC to red-alert levels.
As heartwarming as it is that the Chicks haven't backed down from the free-speech-promoting, vaguely leftist stance that had Republican fundamentalists burning their CDs, their newfound dogmatism has overshadowed the music, and that's unfortunate.
Unlike so many female pop starlets of their stature, all three Dixie Chicks are very strong instrumentalists - particularly Martie Seidel, whose soaring fiddle melodies provide a much-needed reminder of the threesome's true country roots.
Backed by an expansive band of low-key dudes, the Chicks harmonized through a solid set that drew predominantly from the pop/rock-ier material on their latest disc, getting only slightly tripped up by technical gaffes. But while their explosive gallop through Not Ready To Make Nice - Shut Up & Sing's de facto theme song - had the crowd on their feet, it was the more minimal, stripped-down moments, like their mandolin-accented cover of Landslide, that showed the Chicks in true fighting form.