GREENVILLE, S.C. -- It appears that we can all go back to liking the Dixie Chicks again.
At the first stop of their Top of the World tour, there were precisely seven protesters in the
assigned grassy knoll in front of the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, S.C., on Thursday (May 1). Further down the sidewalk, dozens
other people displayed their posters in support of Natalie Maines, President Bush and the United States -- sometimes, all
on the same sign.
Certainly, the controversy of Maines' infamous remarks before a London audience almost two months
ago threatened to overshadow the Texas trio's return to their homeland. However, the Chicks have apparently maintained their
sense of humor despite the adversity, even daring to play the Tammy Wynette classic
"Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad" on the arena's sound system just before they took the stage.
The eager arena -- officially
sold out and with only a handful of vacant seats -- erupted in screams at the first strains of the opening song, "Goodbye
Earl." As animated frying pans frolicked across the giant screens, everybody leapt to their feet.
"They said you might
not come, but we knew you would!" Maines shouted after the third song.
"If you want to boo us, we welcome that, because
we love freedom of speech," she said. Then the Chicks counted down to three, just to give the naysayers in the audience a
15-second window of opportunity. If there were any boos, they could not be heard over the huge applause.
the rest of the 20-song set, the Chicks scarcely chatted at all. Martie Maguire spoke only once, to introduce a film spoof
about the back-up band. During a long stretch of songs, Maines took off her Michael Jackson-esque white jacket to reveal a
black shirt that said "Dare to Be Free." She also wore her hair in that weird, Max Headroom helmet-head style, along with
a short black skirt with chains.
Finally, an hour into the set, Maines said, "I thought about not wearing this skirt,
because I knew I had to sit down. But then I thought, half of you have seen me naked anyway" -- presumably referring to the
recent Entertainment Weekly cover featuring all three Chicks in the nude with epithets scrawled across their bodies.
the night's most provocative move, Maines introduced "Truth No. 2," admitting that she didn't get the lyrics of the Patty
Griffin song at first. But over the course of the past few months, Maines said she now understands it perfectly.
song's lyrics include this line: "You don't like the sound of the truth coming from my mouth." Above the stage, footage of
the civil rights movement, suffrage, bra burning, pro-choice rallies and gay-rights marches flickered slowly. And for those
who missed the point, the Chicks also included reels of people stomping on records from the Beatles, Sinead O'Connor -- and
yes, even their own albums. The live performance was remarkable, but the audience was perhaps too stunned to react with the
typically boisterous cheering.
In fact, a few people got up shortly thereafter, but for a whole different reason.
They wanted to dance to the hit "If I Fall You're Going Down With Me," which showcases what a terrific and talented vocalist
Maines can be. It doesn't hurt to have Maguire on fiddle or Emily Robison on Dobro either -- and their road band was darn
Following a Bob Dylan cover ("Mississippi") and "Cowboy Take Me Away," Robison saluted the mothers in
the audience with "Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)." A few cute stage tricks came and went, but none of it overshadowed their musicianship
or their natural comfort on stage.
After completing their first 20 songs, the Chicks returned after a breather to announce
that the president had declared an end to the war in Iraq. The place went crazy, and then Maines opened her mouth and took
a breath. More than a few hearts stopped. But rather than any disparaging remarks, she merely suggested that she felt like
celebrating with a few more songs. (Whew.)
With beaming grins after the romp of "Sin Wagon," all three Chicks circled
the stage, happily waving and looking extremely relieved. Judging by the wild applause, country fans were glad to have them
Joan Osborne opened the show, mixing up-tempo songs from her 1995 album Relish (with the hit "One
of Us"), as well as soulful tunes to her 2002 project How Sweet It Is. She also tossed in a Bob Dylan song, "To Make
You Feel My Love." Though she turned in a fine performance, she must have temporarily forgotten it was a country show, because
she didn't say "How y'all doin' Greenville!" until after the second song!
The Chicks' Top of the World tour
concludes Aug. 4 in Nashville.
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"
"Lil Jack Slade"
"Truth No. 2"
"If I Fall You're Going Down With Me"
Take Me Away"
"Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)"
"Ready to Run"
"Wide Open Spaces"
"Top of the World"
"One of Us"
Only You Know and I Know"
"To Make You Feel My