Three songs into the Dixie Chicks’ DCXMMXVI concert at a sold-out Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday (Aug. 17), Natalie Maines hollered, “Nashville! Long time no see. You guys look fantastic. I love what you’re wearing.”
It’s true. The thousands of Dixie Chicks fans at the show were dressed to impress for the band’s return to Music City. The last time the Chicks headlined the venue was Dec. 1, 2006, on the Accidents & Accusations tour when the Bridgestone was called the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
Maines’ introduction was met with ear-splitting screams from the predominantly female crowd donning their best concert attire. Throughout the aisles were glammed up fans loosening up their chains and dancing to every song in their favorite Dixie Chicks T-shirts, chic night looks and the pre-pop Taylor Swift uniform of cowboy boots and a sundress. The night was life-changing all over again for those who have followed the Chicks since they broke out with their Monument debut Wide Open Spaces nearly 20 years ago.
That’s the thing about good friends and fans. No matter how much time goes by between their last hoorahs, they pick up the conversation right where they left off whenever they finally do get together.
The Chicks’ Maines, Martie Erwin and Emily Strayer looked gorgeous, too, pairing their concert black and white looks with dazzling smiles as they ripped through two hours of live covers and selections from their Grammy-winning albums Taking the Long Way, Home, Fly and Wide Open Spaces.
After the lights went down and a recording of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” sent the crowd into a frenzy, the Chicks kicked off the show with the driving “Taking the Long Way” and an incendiary “Lubbock or Leave It” from 2006’s Taking the Long Way, showcasing harmonies as pristine as their picking. And both were piss clean throughout the night.
Folks seemed to love the truth coming from their mouths when they followed up with “The Truth No. 2” – the first of three Patty Griffin songs performed onstage that night.
A lyric video featuring picturesque landscapes from around the world played on a mega screen backdrop guided fans through Taking the Long Way’s “Easy Silence.” For “Long Time Gone,” they poured on a Cajun swagger and touched on “Dixie Chicken,” the Little Feat classic that inspired the band’s namesake.
Between 2016 losses of David Bowie, Guy Clark, Glenn Frey, Merle Haggard and more, the Chicks had their pick of the litter when it comes to which music icon to eulogize on the DCXMMXVI tour. But they stuck with Prince, delivering an emotional cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U” with his famous symbol lit up in purple on the big screen backdrop.
The Griffin covers continued with “Top of the World” from 2002’s Home. Old black-and-white mug shots of criminals flashed on the big screen as the ladies lit into “Goodby Earl,” and if one blinked, they’d missed the flash of presidential candidate Donald Trump with a mustache and devil horns drawn on his mug.
A video starring the ladies drag racing vintage muscle cars to a pre-recorded bluegrass version of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” played while stage crews did a quick set change for four-song acoustic set that included their last No. 1 single, 2003’s “Travelin’ Soldier,” the concert’s final Griffin cover “Don’t Let Me Die in Florida,” Beyoncé’s “Daddy Lessons” and the fiery “White Trash Wedding.” Then Maines banged on a tom tom while the band lit into a bluegrass instrumental piece that included covers of White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” and Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies.”
Red, white and blue confetti rained on the crowd during “Ready to Run,” which was the show’s only political moment. The crowd yelled enthusiastically when Erwin leaped into the familiar fiddle parts while a satirical video of all the presidential candidates wearing red clown faces flashed on the backdrop. It was clear no one in the audience really gave a flip about the band’s political issues of the past. Some even hoisted their beers in the air during the choruses, catching confetti in their clear plastic cups.
Next, they covered Bob Dylan’s “Mississippi,” missing an opportunity to do a live collaboration with local Grammy-winner Sheryl Crow. According to Billboard, Crow is working on new music at her Nashville home studio and recorded the Dylan song for 1998’s The Globe Sessions. Surprise live collaborations are common and often expected at major local shows given the oversaturation of music stars who call Nashville home. They could have also invited Carrie Underwood, Maren Morris, Jana Kramer, Danielle Bradbery and Haley Georgia onstage at any point during the night. Minus Crow, all were spotted in the audience having a blast.
But the night’s only surprise guests were a Flat Ronnie from the Howard Stern show, and a nearly naked male model who showed up onstage in tiny white underwear and an oversized birthday cake for Strayer, who turned 44 on Tuesday (Aug. 16). She cracked up and covered her mouth in shock as black and white balloons showered the stage during the funny birthday moment.
“And I cannot even tell you how hard it was to locate the guy from the poster that Em has on the ceiling of her bunk, but we found him,” Maines joked. “Poster boy’s name is Heath and he was hard to lock down. You gotta research. Well, Nashville, we had a fantastic time with you. We hope you guys don’t wait another 10 years before you invite us back.”
Singing from the crowd nearly overpowered their version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” and continued during “Cowboy Take Me Away,” “Wide Open Spaces” and “Sin Wagon,” the latter of which featured a fiery guitar solo from Maines’ son little Jackson Slade; except he’s not so little anymore. He turned 15 in March.
Ears will be ringing for days from the audience roar during two minutes the Chicks left the stage before the encore. When they returned and strummed the opening chords of the Grammy-winning “Not Ready to Make Nice,” they sent the crowd into a fever pitch. For the finale, openers Smooth Hound Smith and Vintage Trouble front man Ty Taylor joined the band onstage for an uplifting cover of Ben Harper’s “Better Way.”
Before taking a final bow with the band, Maines closed with a little tease. “Thanks so much Nashville,” she said. “Bye for now!”
Wednesday’s (Aug. 17) Dixie Chicks show was part of a fairly intense week of live music events around town. After the concert, some folks cutting through the back alley across the street between the Ryman Auditorium and the honky-tonks on Lower Broadway ran into a beaming Steven Tyler being guided by security after his solo debut at the historic venue. On Tuesday (Aug. 16), the Ryman hosted an all-star concert tribute to Guy Clark.
Earlier Wednesday evening, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the Recording Academy hosted a conversation with Keith Urban and listening session for his eighth studio album Ripcord.
That same evening in East Nashville, Kree Harrison’s live album release party for her country-soul debut This Old Thing packed the Basement East. Folks snaking through her audience bumped into rising country stars at least every two feet. Kelleigh Bannen, Ryan Beaver, Brothers Osborne, Lindsay Ell, Ryan Hurd, Lucie Silvas and Emily West were among those dancing in the audience while Harrison rocked out with a seven-piece band including a two horn players, Kacey Musgraves’ guitarist and boyfriend Misa Arriaga, bassist Annie Clements and Steelism’s Jeremy Fetzer and Spencer Cullum Jr.
Monday (Aug. 15) was also night three of Charlie Worsham’s Every Damn Monday residency at the Basement East. The show was a traditional songwriter round with Grammy-winning songwriter Shane McAnally and hit-maker Luke Dick. The three artists shared stories behind their hits and premiered acoustic renditions of tracks recorded by other acts that haven’t been released yet. Proceeds from the month-long weekly residency will support Worsham’s Follow Your Heart scholarship through the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
The fun downtown continues Thursday (Aug. 18) with the free Live on the Green music festival featuring sets by Jr Jr, Passenger and Jenny Lewis, as well as a Lyle Lovett concert at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
In Nashville, it truly is a music festival every day.