Dixie Chicks, Birmingham NEC

Birmingham NEC

"Anyone aware of the incident March 10?" asks singer Natalie Maines, referring to the band's last UK visit, when a remark that she was "ashamed" of George Bush led to waves of anti-Chicks feeling and record burnings across the US. "This song makes a lot more sense," she cries, and launches into Patty Griffin's Truth No 2: "You don't like the sound of the truth coming from my mouth."

As the song charges forth, screens show images of civil liberties marches and apartheid in the US as recently as the 60s. The message is as simply powerful as the banner carried by the cinematic protestors: when ordinary people unite, "we shall overcome".

It's a weird world when a bunch of guitar-wielding country gals can be demonised as "Saddam's angels", but the Dixies' power lies in their ordinariness. These are not seasoned anti-war campaigners - they are Texan belles from Bush's own back yard. Clearly a lot of Americans would prefer them to shut up and bake cakes. The trio are sussed enough to not let the controversy detract from the fact that they are primarily fabulous musicians, and over two hours they demonstrate why they piled up the Grammies before conservative America turned its back.

Their country music is rooted in MTV pop with appeal to all ages. Some songs now take on a different hue, notably Travelin' Soldier, a lament about a military lover who fails to return home. Blonde Maines is equally powerful in song as between them, a gigantic holler presumably spawned by years of bawling at mangy dogs and given a certain tremor by tottering on unfeasibly pointy boots. Apart from a whisper about "peace" Maines makes no further contentious comments, although the chap in the audience draped in the US flag gets several from those around him.

Otherwise, the gig is more of a love-in than a war zone; a feast of zithers, whiskers, guitar-pickers, preposterous glitzy outfits and the power of restraint, any or all of which the more aggressive sections of the US government are invited to try out some time.

· At the Royal Albert Hall, London SW7 (020-7589 8212), on Sunday and Monday.

Contributor

Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Dixie Chicks, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Betty Clarke

17, Jun, 2006 @12:15 PM

The Dixie Chicks, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Betty Clarke

12, Mar, 2003 @4:28 PM

Dixie Chicks: anti-American?

Reactions to lead singer Natalie Maine's comments at last week's London gig

19, Mar, 2003 @4:34 PM

Article image
CD: Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way

(Sony)

Alexis Petridis

09, Jun, 2006 @3:15 PM

Did I ruin it for the Dixie Chicks?

The Dixie Chicks were going to be fun. Standing outside Shepherd's Bush Empire, clutching a bundle of press cuttings, I gleefully read about the renegade ladies of country. Outspoken Nashville Barbies on a mission to strike terror into the hearts of Hank Williams wannabes, they had kicked up their kitten-heeled boots to a diluted bluegrass sound and breathed life into a genre perversely proud of its death rattle. The Dixie Chicks were over-styled, over the top and over here.

Betty Clarke

29, Apr, 2003 @9:42 AM

Article image
Dixie Chicks change name to the Chicks due to slavery-era connotations
Politically outspoken country trio make decision amid wider reckoning with problematic Confederate terminology

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

25, Jun, 2020 @4:31 PM

Article image
Dixie Chicks review – second coming of country music outlaws
The outspoken Texan band’s timely return spans covers of Beyoncé and the Weeknd, all with a country-bluegrass core

Caroline Sullivan

02, May, 2016 @11:12 AM

Article image
Dixie Chicks, who criticised Iraq war, win five Grammys

The Dixie Chicks proved their rehabilitation was complete at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, picking up a clutch of gongs almost four years after outraging middle America with anti-George Bush comments on the eve of the Iraq war.

Press Association

12, Feb, 2007 @2:02 PM

Article image
From pariahs in Texas to heroes in the US: the Dixie Chicks dominate the Grammys
· Awards confirm comeback after anti-war controversy
· Recognition for the song glorifying defiant stance

Dan Glaister in Los Angeles

13, Feb, 2007 @8:25 AM

Article image
Dixie Chicks turn death threats to song
In 2003 the Dixie Chicks were condemned as traitors in America after telling a London audience they were ashamed that their president came from Texas. Now the group's angry new song addressing that controversy looks set to become a hit.

Oliver Burkeman in New York

25, Mar, 2006 @1:02 PM