DIXIE CHICKS @ Perth Arena, WA – 05/04/17 (Live Review)
They say ‘everything’s bigger in Texas’, and last night to a devoted Perth Arena audience the Dixie Chicks said howdy with an impressively huge stage production that befitted one of the the biggest selling female groups of all time.
It’s been a long time between drinks and they returned like fully realised rock-stars albeit with no new material. Their last album Taking The Long Way was released in 2006 and in that time lead singer Natalie Maines, and sisters Emily Robison (guitar) and Martie Macguire (violin) have released their own projects, and it seems they are just fine with that arrangement. It’s a testament to their popularity in Australia that they can sell an arena tour.
Avalanche City provided support and his style of indie-folk is always pleasing but it certainly did not allude to the rock show in store.
The Dixie Chicks came out like iconic figures with a swag of songs imbued with that Texan charm, cowboy romanticism and spunky southern belle attitude – with no one defining that more than Maines. With her shorn punk moppish hair, black cutoffs and impetous stare she cut a striking rock figure against her more prim offsiders, moreso as she stomped to the beat and fiercely strummed her guitar through a rollicking Lubbock Or Leave It and first encore song Sin Wagon. Even during their last massive hit Not Ready To Make Nice, Maines projected the anger of the song whilst Robison and Macguire conveyed a subdued sadness.
It’s an appropriate juxtaposition that actually pointed to something more apparent – there is a subtle disconnection between the trio. They played great together, and on the huge crowd favourite, Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide their harmonies were sublime but they seemed to prefer hanging with their band than actually interacting with each other. “You’re so polite, not annoying the person behind you.” Maines commented early on about the audience but change “behind” to “beside” and well that was the ladies’ dynamic.
Still it never stood out enough to distract, with thousands hopping onto their feet to have a dance to the banjo driven Truth No.2 and Long Time Gone. However it was when the theatrics were pared back to have the entire band front of stage playing blue-grass renditions like White Trash Wedding did they show off the tenacity and excitement of country music.
A number of covers were also given some hospitality with a couple of Patty Griffin songs including the bayou inspired cracker Don’t Die In Florida (that’s the Gold Coast for us Aussies). And with their mostly Aussie band perched on soapboxes around the ladies it was at this point the whole concert felt like it came together. Beyonce was also given a nod with Daddy Lessons as well as a poignant outing of Thunderclap Newman’s Something In The Air which was prefaced by Maines cheekily saying “We’ve got a real shithead of a president. I’ve been told not to talk about our President on foreign soil.” Referring back to the furore over her George W Bush comments in 2003, who incidentally now seems so innocuous in comparison the current POTUS.
It was a concert that was intended to blow you away, with huge confetti guns and a floor to ceiling screen showing unique graphics and punches of neon amidst a black and white scheme. No cowboy boots or floral shirts here, the Dixie Chicks looking like on-trend moms gave it their all but it was the simpler songs driven by beautiful lyrics where the Dixie Chicks really left an impression. Early highlight Easy Silence, accompanied by a lyric video was beguiling, as was Top Of The World with all it’s heartache, and love song Cowboy Take Me Away. Their voices together were as refreshing and uplifting as a summer rain shower and if you thought you didn’t like country music before, well by concerts’ end you’d be hard pressed to find anyone not taken by their sincerity or nimble musicianship.