One thing that should not be forgotten in the midst of all the controversy surrounding the Dixie Chicks’ 2003 tour is that not only was it the biggest-grossing country tour of the year by far, it was also the fifth highest-grossing act, period. Perhaps more significantly, it was the only non-”classic rock” act of the top six – surrounded by warhorses like the Eagles, Cher, Fleetwood Mac, Springsteen, and, topping the list, the Stones. The Chicks’ $62.2 million outdistanced the next closest country act, Toby Keith, by more than $20 million, with Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, and Shania Twain falling in behind.
And lest you think ticket sales were somehow spurred on by the controversy stemming from lead singer Natalie Maines’ anti-Bush statement at the tour’s outset, every seat of every show had already sold-out in advance.
On the heels of their triumphant Home album, Maines and sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire truly were on top of the world and, as evidenced by the performances here, at the top of their game. And although there is next to no talk, let alone any political trumpeting, the Chicks answered their naysayers the best way they possibly could – by showing that they survived the storm and can still sing and play like nobody’s business.
The tour itself was as elaborate as anything in pop or country music, with 16 semis and 15 buses hauling a multi-pronged, multi-level stage that reached into and (in spots) around the audience. The DVD is equally dazzling, jumping from one performance to another numerous times within each of its 18 songs, as outfits and hairdos change with each edit. It takes some getting used to, but with such a glitzy show it almost wouldn’t make sense to show just one concert.
The sound is exceptional, and the music (engineered by Fred Remmert, produced by the Chicks and Natalie’s dad, Lloyd Maines) is seamless and always in synch, with nary a studio overdub. The A-list band, led by guitarist David Grissom, features mandolinist Brent Truitt, flatpicker Keith Sewell, bassist Roscoe Beck, and steel guitarist Robby Turner (with Lloyd Maines showing up on “Wide Open Spaces”). But the ladies’ instrumental chops take center stage as often as not – with Maguire on fiddle and mandolin, Robison handling banjo and Dobro, and Maines contributing acoustic guitar and some electric bass parts – and are as impressive as their formidable vocal talents. Grissom splatters some great Tele bends through “Some Days You Gotta Dance”; Robison’s overdriven Dobro punctuates “Cold Day In July”; and Truett and Sewell trade ultra-hot licks with the sisters on “Lil’ Jack Slade.”
Other than a montage of Natalie shouting “Hello, Houston!” (Boston, Vancouver, etc.), the only other time she addresses the crowd it’s to say, “You know, they said you wouldn’t come, but we knew you’d come, because we have the greatest fans in the whole wide world” – before encoring with a blistering “Sin Wagon.”
Having been banned by radio station conglomerates and the Nashville establishment, the Dixie Chicks have done some thinking out loud about aiming at the world of pop. By the looks of this DVD, their fans will follow them, and country music will have lost one of its greatest acts.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s June ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.