After attending both the first and last date on the Dixie Chicks’ U.S. tour, a few differences come to mind.
When the Chicks’ played in Greenville, S.C., on May 1, a handful of protesters marched for the army of media. Police officers were scouting for trouble. To write about the show, I had to pay more than $300 for a pair of tickets.
For the final show of the U.S. tour, at Nashville’s Gaylord Entertainment Center on Monday (Aug. 4), a police officer was giving away eight tickets (while on duty), making it impossible for a dozen folks with extra tickets to cover their losses. And there wasn’t a protester in sight.
But the similarities between the two concerts are much more prevalent. Same T-shirt. (The black “Dare to Be Free” one.) Same weird hairstyle. Same legion of squealing girls. Same set list.
Of course, when that set list includes “Wide Open Spaces,” “Cowboy Take Me Away” and “Travelin’ Soldier,” it’s hard to complain. Outside of the familiar hits, the Texas trio earned perhaps the biggest cheers of the night for the sassy bluegrass tune “White Trash Wedding,” which indicates that their Home album might have one more single worth releasing.
The stage was surrounded by a racetrack of sorts, allowing the Chicks to play to every corner of the audience. The track was lighted underneath like a disco and decorated with swirling frying pans (“Goodbye Earl”), aerial cityscapes (“If I Fall, You’re Going Down With Me”) and foliage (“Home”). It’s like the coolest Formica you’d ever see. The bold red, yellow and blue squares during “Hello Mr. Heartache” made the girls look like the next contestant on a game show, although given the recent turn of events, it would have to be a show more like Survivor.
“We’ve had the best audiences,” said Martie Maguire. “Something about everything that’s happened to us in the last few months has made you show us a little bit extra love.”
During the encore, Natalie Maines said, “We decided to call this the Top of the World tour, but about four months ago, we thought we would have to change it to our farewell tour. But we didn’t have to do that because we have the greatest fans in the world!”
Other than that, the stage banter was mostly of the “How y’all doin’ Nashville!” variety. That left more time for music, which drew almost exclusively from their first three albums. (They did cover Bob Dylan’s “Mississippi.”) Even with stuff sprouting from the stage (oversized tulips, a windmill, a string section), the Chicks never relied solely on the spectacle to entertain the crowd. Instead, it was their unique musical style that made you wonder what they’d sing — if not say — next.
Michelle Branch, a young woman with a powerful voice, opened the show with music from her first two albums. Her material ventured into the rhythms of Fleetwood Mac, to the straight-up pop hits like “All You Wanted” and “Everything.” It’s hard to say why she skipped her Santana collaboration, “Game of Love,” but her eight-song set warmed up the crowd admirably.
DIXIE CHICKS’ SET LIST:
“Some Days You Gotta Dance”
“There’s Your Trouble”
“Long Time Gone”
“Tortured Tangled Hearts”
“Am I the Only One (Who’s Ever Felt This Way)”
“Hello Mr. Heartache”
“Cold Day in July”
“White Trash Wedding”
“Lil’ Jack Slade”
“Truth No. 2”
“If I Fall You’re Going Down With Me”
“Cowboy Take Me Away”
“Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)”
“Ready to Run”
“Wide Open Spaces”
“Top of the World”