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Concert Reviews:
Dixie Chicks make nice, but not too nice, at DTE

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Sunday, June 5, 2016

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- Near the start of the Dixie Chicks' concert Saturday night, June 4, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, the group's Natalie Maines promised the crowd -- sporting what she called "that sexy, wet look" -- that "we are going to attempt to entertain you."

No problem there.

Some things have certainly changed during the decade since the Chicks kicked off their last full-scale tour at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena. The group has spent most of the past 10 years in two camps -- Maines as a solo act, sisters Marti Maguire and Emily Strayer in their Court Yards Hound Band, touring together sporadically while also raising families. And the Chicks that showed up at DTE were hardly the effervescent, chatty and irreverent troupe that broke barriers and dominated country music during the late 90s and early 00s.

Still evident, however, was a strength of spirit and a musical adventurousness that gave the two-hour, 25-song set plenty of strength and potency. It was certainly slicker, but there was still plenty of fun to be had and a few surprises that made for an energetic, and quite welcome , return.

Since there's been no new album since 2006's "Taking the Long Way" -- whose title track opened Saturday's show -- the concert rested on nostalgia and a wealth of hits that still stands up. Playing in front of a massive video screen and flanked by the five members of its lean 'n' mean band, the trio cranked out ferocious versions of "Lubbock or Leave It" and "Sin Wagon," accented "Long Time Gone" with a pronounced New Orleans flavor and offered majestic takes of favorites such as "Cowboy Take Me Away," "Wide Open Spaces" and an encore rendition of "Not Ready To Make Nice."

The Chicks also showcased their rich vocal harmonies and fine taste in covers -- including Maines' stellar, emotive performance of "Nothing Compares 2 U" in tribute to Prince. The trio added a new Patty Griffin cover, "Don't Let Me Die in Florida," to the mix during an unplugged-style set and followed that with a surprise rendition of Beyonce's "Daddy Lessons," after which Maines cracked, "I think she wrote it for us -- She doesn't know that." The Chicks also offered up their hit version of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," a loose-limbed treatment of Bob Dylan's "Mississippi" that showcased the individual instrumentalists and closed with Ben Harper's "Better Way."

And while Maines stayed away from the kind of political statements that got the group in trouble back in 2004, the Chicks weren't ready to make totally nice on Saturday. There were pre-show video messages supporting Planned Parenthood and Proclaim Justice, and the Chicks also took a brief shot at presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump by flashing a photo -- with devil's horns and a fake moustache added -- in the rogue's gallery shown during the vengeful "Goodbye Earl."

And, in a bit of non-partisan commentary, the group accompanied "Ready To Run" with a political cartoon that not too subtly panned candidates from both sides of the divide as clowns -- while red, white and blue confetti filled the pavilion.

As the show wound to a close, Maines saluted the crowd -- as well as its fortitude in the rain -- and noted that, "We hope it's not another 10 years before you invite us back." She and her bandmates could have considered that request extended even before they left the stage on Saturday.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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