Last week, I picked up tix to see the Dixie Chicks – on June 18, 2016. Which means, when the date finally rolls around, it will have been almost a decade since the first, and only, time Diane and I saw them in concert. That was July 25, 2006, at the Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) Center in Philadelphia, on their “Accidents & Accusations” tour, which found them still facing fallout (i.e., cancellations and poor sales in some parts of the country) from 12 words uttered by lead singer Natalie Maines on the eve of the Iraq War in 2003.
Oddly enough, it was the overwrought reaction to that comment that led me to give the Chicks a serious listen. I owe a big thank you to all the jingoistic burn-the-book Reich types, in other words; if not for them, I’d have missed out on some damn good music. (I should mention, I have no issue with folks who stop supporting acts for any reason, be it political, personal or artistic. But there’s a big difference between jumping off the bandwagon and threatening the driver of said wagon with bodily harm.)
Anyway, prior, I knew of them because they’d covered Maria McKee’s “Am I the Only One (Who’s Ever Felt This Way)” on their mega-selling Wide Open Spaces album, a move that meant the Little Diva could – as she said at the 1998 show we saw – do what she wanted for a little while, thanks to the royalty checks.
I’d also heard them because Diane played them on occasion; we owned their first two albums. But I didn’t pay them much mind – there’s only so much listening time in the day, after all, and in 2002 most of mine was spent on Neil Young’s seriously underrated Are You Passionate?, which was my Album of the Year that year. If I’d heard it at the time, however, Home likely would’ve displaced it; their feisty cover of Patty Griffin’s “Truth No. 2,” which foretold the controversy that followed, and the heartfelt rendition of Bruce Robison’s “Travelin’ Soldier” are worth the price of admission alone, but the entire album is excellent.
As was their 2006 effort, Taking the Long Way, which featured a streamlined, SoCal/Eagles-like veneer. By the time of their Wachovia barn shindig, I was primed. We had good seats – first level to the left of the stage with an excellent view – when the lights weren’t blinding us, that is. (The lighting was apparently designed without a sideview in mind.)
They opened with the rollicking kiss off to small-mindedness, “Lubbock or Leave It,” followed with a stellar “Truth No. 2.”
But my main memory of the show is one song from the middle of the set: “Not Ready to Make Nice,” which was Natalie’s defiant response to the threats she faced a few years before. Simply put, it’s jaw-dropping performance.
The video cuts off immediately after the song ends, but – those explosive cheers you hear at the end? They continued for near 10 minutes (at least, it felt that long), with everyone on their feet and clapping, clapping, and clapping some more. It’s the longest mid-show ovation I’ve witnessed, I think, aside from – and Diane’s chiming in here – at a Bruce Springsteen concert.
The first song of the encores was another highpoint: “Travelin’ Soldier.”
And another one followed: Bob Dylan’s “Mississippi.”
The only slight gripe I had with the night: no “Am I the Only One” – but, then again, this night, it’s safe to say I wasn’t. Everyone in the building left feeling the same way. It was a great show.
The set: “Lubbock or Leave It”/”Truth No. 2″/”Goodbye Earl”/”The Long Way Around”/”Landslide”/”Everybody Knows”/”I Like It”/”Cowboy Take Me Away”/”Lullaby”/”White Trash Wedding”/”Lil’ Jack Slade”/”Not Ready to Make Nice”/”Easy Silence”/”Long Time Gone”/”Some Days You Gotta Dance”/”So Hard”/”Top of the World”/”Wide Open Spaces”/”Sin Wagon”//”Travelin’ Soldier”/”Mississippi”/”Ready to Run”