We saw the Dixie Chicks from front-row seats at Madison Square Garden last night. Like all big stadium shows, it was too scripted and too slick, but despite that, it was still wonderful. Natalie Maines (center), underneath her stadium-rockstar poses, is a magnificent singer, while Martie Seidel (right) and Emily Erwin (left) are virtuoso players.
There were no surprises in the set; it consisted almost entirely of songs from the three albums Natalie Maines has done with the band. They opened with "Taking the Long Way" followed by "Truth #2." Even though the song came out before the controversy, and she didn't write the words, the opening line, "You don't like the sound of the truth coming from my mouth," is now hers, and Maines brought everyone to their feet with the song.
The only unscripted moment of the evening seemed to be in her introduction to "White Trash Wedding," which she dedicated to Mel Gibson. "You know what happens when you're drunk," she said, laughing. "This whole scandal could have been avoided if I'd just checked myself into rehab and said I'd been drunk and didn't know what I was saying." The audience then held up "THANK YOU" signs that someone had distributed in the front sections before the show.
Sign of the night: "I MAY BE GAY, BUT I STILL LOVE CHIX."
The encore consisted of the three of them doing "Travelling Soldier" by themselves, which made me wish they'd done the entire set like that. The harmonies were beautiful and their own playing was unobscured by the band. And without having to stay in sync with a dozen other musicians, they're able to play more flexibly and interact with each other a bit. Add a bass and a couple of other folks (like acoustic guitarist Keith Sewell), stand around a single mic bluegrass style, add some traditional songs or Carter Family standards to the mix, and loosen up, joke around, and talk more. It would be a much more intimate, much more musical, much better show.
Because of the heavy fines for running late at MSG, Maines didn't introduce the band, but here they are:
Note to Laurie: Not cell phone photos!!!! ;-)