Every seat was taken at the behemoth that is Rod Laver Arena; the majority of punters female and a decent spattering from regional Victoria. The evidence? Cowboy hats and the copious amounts of booze being consumed. All were there to see Dixie Chicks, one of the most popular offerings ever from the Lone Star State.
Native of Lubbock, Texas, Natalie Maines, along with multi-talented duo Martie Maguire and Emily Robison graced and wowed us on this first night of April; not a fool in sight. Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy opened the show with strobe lights and a screeching audience panting for the dynamic trio. The gals launched straight into three songs in a row with no mucking about. Truth No. 2 was a highlight and then Natalie gushed with, “Hello Melbourne, how’s everyone doin?” followed by “You look fantastic; love what you’re wearing.” Speaking of clothes the gals provided a black and white theme for the night – all white (including instruments) in the first half of the show then black on white in the second half. These, along with very impressive back screen images, were a diversion but essentially it was the musicians that stole the show; the backdrops a mere accompaniment to the astonishing talent on stage. Long Time Gone segued into a Prince tribute with Natalie singing an arresting and emotional version of Nothing Compares 2 U featuring Emily’s haunting slide guitar.
A short break followed with the second half of the show; an acoustic session including the beautiful Travelling Soldier and a cover of the wonderful Patty Griffin’s, Don’t Let Me Die In Florida. Natalie’s allusion to the Gold Coast (our version of a retirement location like Florida) caused raucous laughter in the audience. We learned that a fan in the front row had postponed her wedding to see the Chicks so the song White Trash Wedding was dedicated to her. True bluegrass like this hadn’t been heard in the Arena since Dolly Parton hit the boards a few years ago. That’s the thing with the Dixie Chicks; they cross the great divide from American Appalachian roots to contemporary pop. Their sharp rebukes in song and on Twitter are coupled with true musical talent that would subdue any alt-right radical. These gals are the real deal; their passion on stage a panacea to the troubled direction the US is steering itself into.
Landslide was introduced with a tribute to Stevie Nicks and a rueful acknowledgement that “children grow older” now encompasses the nine the Chicks share among them. The encore included the fabulous Wide Open Spaces and Not Ready To Make Nice; both great hits and an antithesis to the raw bluegrass we heard earlier. The range of instruments the Chicks can play is mind blowing: various guitars, fiddles and a collection of drums just the tip of the musical iceberg these women offer. Natalie’s “Melbourne, we had a great time tonight” felt genuine, the appreciation gifted to the Australian members of the back-up band was heartfelt and the energy expended on stage underscored the integrity that is this band. Thirty million album sales says it all.