DETROIT — “A lot of people since ‘The Incident’ ask me if I would take back what I said or if I had regrets,” Natalie Maines told the crowd at Detroit’s Fox Theatre on Sunday Night (Oct. 3). “You know what? If I took it back, Bush would just call me a flip-flopper.”
The audience — all ages but overwhelmingly anti-Bush — erupted in applause, and when it died down, she added, “I’m still ashamed.”
“The Incident,” as it is now known, refers to Maines’ off-the-cuff remark onstage in London in 2003, when she announced from the stage she was ashamed that President Bush is from the band’s home state of Texas. Though the band was essentially cast out of country music for the comment, the Chicks now have a mighty list of rock musicians on their side, all hoping to get Bush out of office by invigorating their core audiences.
The Vote for Change tour is sponsored by MoveOn.org and is not affiliated with the Democratic Party. All participants are donating funds to win the “swing states,” such as Michigan, where the election outcome is too close to predict. The marquee advertised the show as “a benefit concert for America Coming Together.” Though the series is non-partisan, it wasn’t hard to spot Kerry T-shirts and buttons.
James Taylor, who is sharing the bill with the Chicks on their portion of the tour, said, “Ever since the debate, I’ve been feeling like our guy can do it.” Taylor opened the show by shaking hands and signing autographs from the stage, looking much like a politician himself. He later praised the Chicks for speaking their minds.
“They are shouldering such a heavy load,” he said, just as the band left the stage following a duet. “The Dixie Chicks have really made a huge sacrifice for their political beliefs, so I take my hat off to them.”
Indeed, despite selling somewhere around 25 million albums, the Chicks are back to playing theaters on this tour. But with their fondness for acoustic music, which is still in top form despite coming off the road, the smaller venues are more than suitable. It also reminded audiences that Martie Maguire is one of the brightest fiddle players in contemporary music, that Emily Robison’s banjo and Dobro picking is an unmistakable part of the Chicks’ signature sound and that Maines can still belt it out, ballad or otherwise.
There was no mention, however, of new music, and no Nashville-bashing.
“We’ve been busy having babies, and that’s about it,” Maines said. But the hits were plentiful. Right after the intermission, the Chicks took the stage with “Sin Wagon,” “Long Time Gone,” “Cowboy Take Me Away” and, with Taylor, “Ready to Run.” They also harmonized on “Carolina in My Mind,” which Taylor dedicated to vice presidential nominee John Edwards, who hails from North Carolina.
In recent years, Maines has gotten more attention for her brash behavior than her singing. (The “F.U.T.K.” T-shirt she wore during a performance on the 2003 Academy of Country Music Awards comes to mind.) She joked that she’s afraid that Republican chefs and waiters might spit in her food or that a Republican doctor might make her future epidural procedures more difficult than necessary. The other Chicks giggled in the background, adding some levity to a trio that has been pounded by taking on serious issues.
All in all, the preaching was kept to a minimum. Before entering the Fox Theatre, volunteers distributed papers about both presidential candidates’ viewpoints.
Before performing “Truth No. 2,” Maines said, “Something you cannot do, even when Kerry is elected, is take the First Amendment for granted.” She also introduced “Travelin’ Soldier” as “a song for all the soldiers over there.”
At the Detroit show, Neil Young surprised the audience by performing two songs, “Harvest Moon” and “Heart of Gold.” Also playing Sunday night throughout Michigan: Pearl Jam, Death Cab for Cutie, the Dave Matthews Band, Ben Harper, My Morning Jacket, Jurassic 5, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Keb Mo, Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty, R.E.M., Bright Eyes, John Mellencamp and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds.
Tracy Chapman, Sheryl Crow, Jack Johnson and John Prine are on deck as substitutes in some cities. Robison and Maguire are on the cover of the current Rolling Stone to draw attention to the tour, and Maines is quoted inside about her position on the war.
Having played shows in Pittsburgh and Cleveland earlier in the weekend, Taylor and the Dixie Chicks will perform in Iowa City, Iowa, St. Louis and Clearwater, Fla., later this week before wrapping the tour with all the other participants on Oct. 11 in Washington, D.C.
“Something in the Way She Moves”
“Secret O’ Life”
“Never Die Young”
“Heart of Gold”
“Sweet Baby James”
“Some Days You Gotta Dance”
“Truth No. 2”
“Shower the People”
“Long Time Gone”
“Cowboy Take Me Away”
“Ready to Run”
“Carolina in My Mind”
“Live It Up”
“Fire and Rain”
“Wide Open Spaces”
“How Sweet It Is”
“You Can Close Your Eyes”