Review: Dixie Chicks’ enormous live show proves a massive hit for Sydney fans

One of the most famous and downright talented trios in the music industry for the past few decades has been Dixie Chicks. Natalie Maines‘ diverse vocal work complemented by Martie Maguire and Emily Robison has proven to be a powerful combination, working in perfect harmony to produce hits that have reached far beyond the famously defined boundaries of mainstream country music. It’s why they didn’t need any current hits or perceived relevance to almost completely sell out an arena tour of Australia, and it’s why their massive, dynamic live show worked so well.

Even with various other musicians on stage, or imposing projections for specific songs – or even a costume change – what anchored this fantastic performance and took it far beyond expectations was how perfectly these three work together.

Pop country with real heart and real soul, lifted by some of the most poignant and biting songwriting the genre has seen in a long time. I feel that’s a fairly apt description of Dixie Chicks and why they’ll continue to make an impression, even if they’ve left their bigger hit-making years behind. This was simply a reminder of that, giving us a set that was considered, exciting, refreshing, playful and inventive. Whether it was filling a lull with a fun video of “the chicks” speeding through bright red lasers while a twangy version of “Ace of Spades” booms across the room, or inviting their families on stage to jam – and what a jam it was – this was one very well executed set that could have easily filled a stadium.

A fiddle, a double-neck, a floor tom, a string section, a pounding drum kit – the stage was constantly full of instruments, taking these recordings and turning each and every one into special showcases of creativity, flourished with eclecticism but always grounded by the undeniable twang of country. It was telling from the get-go really, with Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” blasting over the speakers, played in full, before Dixie Chicks appeared on stage.

This was a set of various tastes, presenting plenty of covers all of which were transmuted and reshaped with gentle masterstrokes that preserved and lifted each and every lyric. Because that’s really half of what made this set so special – the respect and admiration Dixie Chicks have for the songs they covered brought focus back to the lyrics, and all the raw emotional power these stories had, whether it was Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” (complete with the late singer’s iconic symbol in a bright purple sheen on the screen), Bruce Robison‘s “Travelin’ Soldier”, or Patty Griffin’s “Don’t Let Me Die In Florida”. Hell, there was even a new perspective on Beyonce’s “Daddy Lessons” that, again, placed emphasis on just how well-written and heartfelt the song is.

The focus on songwriting brought an intimacy that’s rare for shows of this scale, so even when there was a massive wall-to-wall streamer shower during “Ready to Run”, the pizzaz couldn’t outweigh the genuine soul of the show. Even when the crowd were raised from their seats, spurred by the frenetic energy of songs like “Some Days You Gotta Dance” and “White Trash Wedding”, or even crunchy, bombastic set-closer “Sin Wagon”, nothing could quite overshadow the graceful instrumental work that went into these songs. And nothing, not even ending the night on a relatively dull note (a soft Ben Harper cover fades when it’s trying to follow to punchy “Not Ready to Make Nice”) could stop the Dixie Chicks.

SET LIST

The Long Way Around
Lubbock or Leave It
Truth #2 (Patty Griffin cover)
Easy Silence
Some Days You Gotta Dance
Long Time Gone
Nothing Compares 2 U (Prince cover)
Top of the World (Patty Griffin cover)
Goodbye Earl
Travelin’ Soldier (Bruce Robison cover)
Don’t Let Me Die in Florida (Patty Griffin cover)
Daddy Lessons (Beyoncé cover)
White Trash Wedding
Bluegrass Instrumental
Ready to Run
Mississippi (Bob Dylan cover)
Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Cowboy Take Me Away
Wide Open Spaces
Sin Wagon

Encore:
Not Ready to Make Nice
Better Way (Ben Harper cover)

Dixie Chicks play Perth Arena on Wednesday 5th April and Mission Estate Winery in Hawke’s Bay (New Zealand) on Saturday 8th April. More information can be found HERE.

The reviewer attended this show at Sydney’s ICC Theatre on March 30th.