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Concert Reviews:

Of the Oalkand Press

Posted: Saturday, July 22, 2006

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DETROIT -- Just because the Dixie Chicks didn't say much doesn't mean they didn't have much to say when they opened their Accidents & Accusations tour Friday night at Joe Louis Arena.

With the controversy of their outspoken political views still weighing on the Texas trio's career, the group kept its comments -- of any kind -- to a minimum during the nearly two-hour, 23-song show. They entered with irony as "Hail to the Chief" played on the P.A., while lead singer Natalie Maines -- who set off the firestorm with a March 2003 comment that she was ashamed to be from the same state as President George W. Bush -- acknowledged that the Chicks "were mad as hell" when they wrote the songs for their new album, the chart-topping and double-platinum "Taking the Long Way."

Mostly, though, the Chicks let the music do the talking, and in doing so reminded its fans, who filled about two-thirds of the arena on Friday, that they're still one of the best live acts working in any genre thanks to a tightly performed and dynamically crafted concert that revealed only the slightest bit of first-night stiffness.

The Chicks and their nine-piece band of Nashville heavyweights came out swinging -- and rocking -- with "Lubbock or Leave It," with its lyrical acknowledgment that "I hear they hate me now." "Truth No. 2," "Taking the Long Way," "Easy Silence" and "Travelin' Soldier" continued the evening's defiant theme, and even the group's richly arranged rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" ("Can I sail through the changing ocean tides/Can I handle the seasons of my life") took on a deeper resonance in this context.

One fan who held up an anti-Bush sign before the show was escorted out by security, but it was clear that the vast majority of that remained was on the Chicks' side, too, when an inspired delivery of the single "Not Ready to Make Nice" -- the group's reflection on its recent experiences -- drew the strongest sustained ovation. The soul-flavored "I Hope," meanwhile, put a prayerful cap on the evening at the end of the encores.

But it was not all sober and serious. The Chicks kicked up their heels on spirited versions of "Goodbye Earl," "I Like It," "White Trash Wedding," the bluegrass instrumental "Lil' Jack Slade" (a showcase for Marti Maguire's fiddling and Emily Robison's banjo playing) "Long Time Gone," "Sin Wagon" and "Mississippi," as well as on a buoyant performance of the signature hit "Wide Open Spaces." Maines' forceful vocal on "Top of the World" was another highlight, while "Ready to Run" was treated with a grittier rock edge.

Prior to the gentle "Lullabye," Maines jabbed at "anyone who tries to say we are turning into a rock band." The truth is that the Chicks perch, boldly and sometimes precariously, on a wire that crosses a number of different styles, and on Friday they handled all of them with an accomplished balance of precision and passion.

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