There is a specific category out there for girls that have played the Dixie Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces” at full blast while driving off to college. Something about the American country trio evokes a heavy combination of emotion, playfulness, humour and consideration on the meaning of family. Since 1998, the group quickly rose to immense success that was fueled by the threesome’s plethora of instrumental and vocal talent, strong songwriting and very public political stands. As of 2015, the Dixie Chicks have garnered thirteen Grammy Awards, but a long hiatus obviously drove them out of the minds of the general public as many people have the opinion that the group is no longer relevant. Last Thursday, July 7th—however—showed that audiences would still swarm in flocks to their concerts as the MMXVI World Tour made its way to Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
The entirety of the stadium got on their feet to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”, a proper pump up introduction for the three women who then took the stage in formation and directly ripped into “The Long Way Around”. Clad in black and white ensembles and standing tall against a backdrop of electric big-screen visuals, Natalie Maines, Emily Robinson and Martie Maguire were in fine form. Country music is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Dixie Chicks’ musical savvy stands out in comparison to many contemporary Top 40 country pop acts. From their cover of Patty Griffin’s “Truth No. 2” to “Some Days You Gotta Dance”, the trio worked their way through the setlist while the audience sang along at such a high volume you would think that nearly every single person there had the Chicks’ entire discography at home. But it was their cover of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” that brought the karaoke voices out. Maines did not even need to sing as the whole of Rogers Arena belted out the classic tragic love song.
Banjos, fiddles, drum solos and guitar work by the three musicians riddled every song. Watching this, one could not help but shake their head at the simplicity and lack of instrumental expertise among so many of the female mainstream country music performers today, save for a few gems. “Goodbye Earl” prompted a video collage of old movies to be played behind the chicks, and “Travelin’ Soldier stole some tears from more than one audience-member. While many refuse to acknowledge the Dixie Chicks as viably current, the musicians are more than aware of what’s going on in the music scene right now; Maines spoke of her love for Beyonce’s Lemonade and led the Chicks into a perfectly countrified version of “Daddy Lessons.” The trio held the stage without a backup band for a bit, entertaining Rogers Arena with an instrumental bluegrass interlude that included a short rendition of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” But of course the Dixie Chicks would not be the Dixie Chicks if they did not get a little political. Projecting onto the big screen cartoonish caricatures of those who have been involved in the 2016 American presidential race—from Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders to Hilary Clinton and Marco Rubio—the country group sang “Ready to Run.”
With so many hits in their repertoire, much of Thursday’s enjoyment for the audience came from knowing each song by heart and being pleased that the women were still spot-on musicians. Beloved singles “Cowboy Take Me Away”, Fleetwood Mac cover “Landslide” and of course “Wide Open Spaces” resonated strongly with the audience. Much of the reason why the stadium was so full was because of the Chicks’ nostalgic connection to fans. When encore time came around and the Chicks left Vancouver with political heavy-hitter “Not Ready to Make Nice” and a cover of Ben Harper’s “Better Way”, it was sad letting them go. The performance itself was not out of this world; the musicians played their instruments well, sang perfectly, but did not do anything over the top. This was good because fans were actually there to hear the songs they have loved for so long, not to see too much of a spectacle. Sure they got confetti and stage gimmicks, but what really made the night were endless memories that the songs of the Dixie Chicks dug up: high school dances, road trips, weddings…from the looks of many people there that night the country show took them back to a good place.
Read more on the Vancouver music scene here.