"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


last night in live music: the dixie chicks

I've done crazier things in my life than go all the way to Seattle just to see a concert, but this trip is right up there. To be fair, the trip's purpose isn't just to see the Dixie Chicks live at the Tacoma Dome, but it was definitely one of the highlights of our weekend here.

In general, I avoid arena shows. I like to hear the music and to be able to see the musicians play, and that doesn't happen when you're watching a show with 50,000 other people. It's the only way to see the Dixie Chicks, though, but I was a little concerned about the crowded atmosphere.

At first, I was afraid that the show would live up to those fears. The Tacoma Dome is awful. A huge traffic jam to park, scary bleachers that shook every time any of the other 3,000 people in your section moved, and it smelled like, um, someone had been sick near our seats. Ugh.
But that didn't stop the Dixie Chicks from putting on a great show. The last time I saw all of them live was in the Cotton Bowl at the State Fair in 2002, a few months before Natalie Maines' flap over the Iraq war. This is their first tour since being abandoned by the bulk of their fans. It's also their first show since changing their sound to reflect more of a California rock sound.

Things have changed. The music was as good as ever. The show was almost a sell-out. Apparently everyone in the Pacific Northwest showed up, as did half of Canada. The lights went down, the crowd started cheering, and all of a sudden, "Hail to the Chief" started blasting through the speakers, I said, "Did they just?," the Intrepid Lobbyist said, "Yes," and there were the Dixie Chicks. They opened with "Lubbock or Leave It," moved on to "Truth #2," and rocked through "Good-bye, Earle" and "The Long Way."

The setlist was a good mix of old and new material, with crowd favorites like "Wide Open Spaces" and "Cowboy Take Me Away" mingled with the gorgeous "Lullaby." The people behind us talked straight through "Top of the World." (Manners, people, MANNERS! Quiet song = shut up.) In the evening's funniest moment, Maines dedicated a song to Kevin Federline, not saying what the song was until she sang the opening line to "White Trash Wedding," which is, in case you didn't know, "You can't afford no ring." So. Funny.Dixie Chicks concerts are always estrogen-fests. In my experience, the men who are there are there with their girlfriends, daughters, or wives, and usually stand around looking shellshocked since all the girls sing along to every song. Not so in our section - the men in front of and behind us luuuuuvvvvved the Dixie Chicks and knew every word. Gay men love the Dixie Chicks - who knew?

Musically, the evening's highlight was "Not Ready to Make Nice," the song that is Maines' answer to her critics. It was stark and powerful, with Maines standing with arms outstretched before the crowd and before the world.

The encore started with just the Chicks onstage, singing "Traveling Soldier" on Veterans' Day. They also played a fast-paced, rockin' cover of Bob Dylan's "Mississippi," before closing with "Ready to Run." And then the magic of the music ended, the crowds closed in, and we walked off into the cold night to join the traffic jam. It was worth it.


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