|Dixie Chicks - An Evening with the Dixie Chicks|
|Written by Dan Macintosh|
|Tuesday, 11 February 2003|
Just as it took a lot of guts to vocally disagree with United States foreign policy in the Middle East, the Dixie Chicks reveal bravery of an entirely different variety by presenting all of their latest Home album in front of fans -- over a two night stand at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre -- to create this DVD. Although the crowds for these two performances were mostly comprised of diehard Chicks fans, many of the attendees were still relatively unfamiliar with the group’s brand-new material. But such unfamiliarity didn’t seem to matter much at all, because the hall was hushed during ballads like “A Home,” the exact way you’d expect it to become, and rambunctious whenever stompers such as “White Trash Wedding” were performed.
This live document is a success for many of the same reasons the new album is a winner: it’s built upon stellar songs that are enthusiastically performed. The Dixie Chicks almost always give credit where (writing) credit is due here. For example, these gals proudly introduce “Truth No. 2” and “Top Of The World” as Patty Griffin songs, and “Travelin’ Soldier” as a Bruce Robison-written number. It’s fascinating to learn along the way that Maines was a 27-year-old when she performed “Landslide,” which was also Stevie Nicks’ age when she originally wrote it.
This show also shows off well the musical chops these ladies have perfected over the years, dating back to the lean years when they were unknown players on the bluegrass circuit. Songs like “Truth No. 2” features Martie MacGuire taking a fiddle solo, for example, and Emily Robison soloing on banjo. Robison also shows off her dobro skills in many other places. Rather than being chicks with guitars, these are in fact Chicks with mad skills. And when the Chicks themselves aren’t providing the musical fireworks, guitarist Bryan Sutton is many times prominently featured here.
The music is so acoustically centered that this concert sounds as if it could have just have easily been recorded at a coffee house or a hootenanny. But while its unplugged style is relatively consistent, the topics of these songs are far broader. “Long Time Gone,” for example, takes a few swipes at country radio’s short memory in regard to classic country artists. Elsewhere, “White Trash Wedding” and “Tortured, Tangled Hearts” are new songs that already sound like bluegrass standards. And speaking of bluegrass standards, “Lil’ Jack Slade,” which was named after Maines’ new son, is an instrumental, in the tradition of diehard bluegrass players always working a few non-vocal songs into their sets. Underneath the bright lights, makeup and flashy threads, these Chicks are very much diehard bluegrass musicians still.
Some of the best songs here also happen to contain a few of the Dixie Chicks’ most serious lyrical moments. “A Home,” for instance, talks about the regrets experienced over a love relationship that’s gone bad, and “Top Of The World” looks down from Heaven upon an earthly life that was not lived particularly well. Additionally, “Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)” speaks about a father who can no longer be with his son at bedtime, as the result of a breakup. Regret is a common theme here, but hopefulness – on the flipside -- is also expressed with “More Love,” “I Believe In Love” and “Landslide.”
The Dixie Chicks rewarded this audience’s patience by also performing four familiar songs as their encores. During this closing section, the venue was transformed into a teenage female choir for performances of “Wide Open Spaces” and “Cowboy Take Me Away,” and then into a modern-day “Hee Haw” soundstage for the rave-ups of “Goodbye Earl” and “Sin Wagon.”
This home theater document includes seven songs not shown on this concert’s original network debut, but there is little else included that is special here to make it a must-own. There is a discography and a biography segment included on the disc, but it sure would have been nice to have seen and heard interviews with the three Chicks. One imagines the group was more than a little nervous about presenting all-new material to a primetime TV audience, so they might well have at least let us evesdrop on their before-show demeanor. Chris Willman’s excellent DVD booklet notes offer a welcome accompanying document, but it would have been even more fun to see these oftentimes-feisty women speak to the cameras themselves.
If nothing else, “An Evening With The Dixie Chicks” is a reminder that there is so much more to this trio’s work than then all the controversy surrounding them might lead you to believe, especially since so few popular country acts are even brave enough to record the style of music that the love, and settle instead for what’s in vogue. Shania Twain and Faith Hill may be all over the place on country radio these days, but no fool would call what they do real country. The Dixie Chicks, on the other hand, display their love of country roots here, with plenty of musical skills to drive this point home.
The Dixie Chicks may never earn political science degrees, or even respect from America’s right wing, but when it comes to playing real country music the right way, they deserve solid straight A’s across the board.