Since Natalie Maines’ infamous comment at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 13 years ago, the Dixie Chicks haven’t embarked on a full headlining UK tour. Back in 2014 they appeared as part of the Country2Country festival, attracting huge crowds for a rare appearance, and their set received rave reviews across the board. So, the announcement of a headlining UK tour for April/May 2016 was quite literally music to the ears of country fans far and wide.
Only a handful of country artists have a fan base that allows them to do UK arena tour. Shows at the Barclaycard Arena, Manchester Arena, The O2 and the SSE Hydro….maybe a little ambitious, you might think? No albums since ‘Taking The Long Way’ in 2006, no radio play and a decade out of the public eye. Nevertheless, their fans have proved their incredible loyalty and have supported them in their thousands. The show at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham wasn’t quite a sell-out, but with the noise level in there, you could have been forgiven for not noticing.
The most striking aspect of the show was the incredible production value from start to finish. The big screen at the back of the stage was truly incredible, you had to be there to appreciate the quality of it, and how much it improved the show overall. A particular highlight was ‘Easy Silence’, with some truly stunning footage of nature accompanied by the song lyrics which gave us goose bumps! And, of course, let’s not forget Natalie’s impeccable delivery of the song, with vocals that are up there with the best in the business.
We were treated to most of the hits, including the likes of ‘Long Time Gone’, ‘Cowboy Take Me Away’ and ‘Wide Open Spaces’, as well as fan favourites ‘Lubbock Or Leave It’ and ‘White Trash Wedding’, which was performed acoustically and received possibly the loudest reception of the night. “You can’t afford no ring…..” was all it took to get everybody on their feet. A killer banjo and fiddle-backed delight – real country music that showcases the immense talent of the girls and their band.
The acoustic part of the show also included ‘Travellin’ Soldier’, a track which requires no introduction. Natalie, Martie and Emily’s angelic harmonies were simply gorgeous and sounded identical to the studio version of the track. It’s always been a personal favourite, and it wasn’t included in the set list at C2C. Fortunately this time we were treated to a superb performance that will live long in the memory.
There was also a stunning tribute to Prince with a cover of ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, by no means an easy one to sing! Needless to say, Natalie totally made it her own and received a standing ovation from the crowd. She could sing the phone book and we’d still pay to watch her. You could hear a pin drop – we were all transfixed by such a touching performance, and it’s the moment everybody was talking about after the show.
It’s fair to say that the girls haven’t lost their sense of humour. ‘Ready To Run’ was just an opportunity to ridicule Donald Trump and George Bush with defaced images of the political figures on the screens, whilst cannons pumped red, white and blue confetti into the crowd. If you thought their political views had been put to one side since the Shepherd’s Bush debacle, think again!
After a 22-song set, the girls returned to the stage for a 2-song encore, welcomed by rapturous applause. ‘Not Ready To Make Nice’, the song that represents their unbelievable journey, was so anthemic as the Birmingham crowd sang along to each and every word. They finished their set with a cover of Ben Harper’s ‘Better Way’, featuring a mesmerising drum solo.
It’s fair to say the girls haven’t lost their spark over the last few years. They’re back, and they’re sounding better than ever. As we were on our way to the venue, we wondered whether this would be the last time we saw the Dixie Chicks….but Natalie re-assured us that they would be back (in the summer next time to avoid the snow!). Who knows, maybe new music might be on the way? Fingers crossed!