Chicks Rock Melbourne

Dixie Chicks - Rod Laver Arena - 17 October 2006

Dixie Chicks - Rod Laver Arena - 17 October 2006

Alighting from the train at Jolimont, I joined the masses streaming towards the Rod Laver Arena. Among them was a group of young Kiwis who had made the trip across the Tasman for the event. If their reaction to the show was anything like mine, it would have been worth the trip.

It was a full house and the atmosphere in the dome was fraught with excited anticipation. Mexican waves rippled through the crowd as we waited for the acts to begin.

Pete Yorn a singer/songwriter from Syracuse New York opened the show with a pleasant set of folk rock tunes. His voice and delivery reminded me somewhat of James McMurtry. The only song I recognised was a cover of "Suspicious Minds". Pete Yorn's version was a killer and I made a mental note to listen to more of his music sometime soon.

Unless you've been off the planet for the past few years, you would be aware of the troubles the Chicks have been facing after lead singer Natalie Maines made an unwise comment about President Bush stating she was "ashamed the President of the United States was from Texas".

As a prelude to their show, they played a trailer of a new documentary "Shut Up & Sing" which follows the aftermath of Natalie's comment. It really is extraordinary, this reaction to the band, way out of all proportion to the mildness of the statement.

They received death threats, their CDs were trashed, and mainstream radio banned them from the airwaves.

< Natalie Maines - photo by Jacinta

George Saunders (a very fine and funny writer) has an amusing satire on this reaction on his website. You can read it at http://www.georgesaundersland.com/myproposal1.

Back to the show...

Australian audiences have no qualms about welcoming the Dixie Chicks, and do so with open arms and the Chicks gave it back in spades.

They played all their best-loved songs, like Goodbye Earl, Wide Open Spaces, Travellin' Soldier, Top of the World, the sassy Sin Wagon as well as songs from their latest CD Taking the Long Way such as Lubbock or Leave It, Not Ready to Make Nice and the title song, among others.

A great live act, the Chicks were supported by a large band* who rocked it up though never detracted from the talents of the individual Chicks. As I was sitting rather further from the stage than I like, I still felt involved and captivated. The sound was excellent, rich and full bodied without being ear buzzingly loud.

Natalie Maines, the spokesperson and the obvious leading light of the band made a few light-hearted political comments. She noted that she had seen the signs advertising "Natalie for President" and remarked she'd probably do a better job of it than the present incumbent. However, nothing distracted one from the music, and the stunning light show being played at the back of the stage was programmed to be relevant to the song being performed at the time.

It was a sensational, high quality performance and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The audience was wildly appreciative even though Natalie remarked that they were too polite, encouraging them to get up and dance. Crowd control officials prevented all-out mayhem. However, at the end of the night just about everyone rose out of their seats to give the Chicks a standing ovation.

They deserved it.

* Band personnel:
Dave Grissom - guitar
Keith Sewell - guitar
Audley Freed - guitar
Pete Finney - steel
Larry Knechtel - keyboards
Sebastian Steinberg - bass
Fred Eltringham - drums
J'Anna Jacoby - violin
John Krovoza - cello

Review by Anne Sydenham
Photos by Anne Sydenham and Jacinta

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