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Dixie Chicks At Madison Square Garden, Monday, June 13th, 2016, Reviewed

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“Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”

Lead singer and guitarist Natalie Maines of Dixie Chicks said that at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire theater in London, England, in March 2003 about Dubya’s Iraq war and essentially ended their career for a couple of years, leading to a break up and a reuniting after Natalie’s excellent solo album went nowhere.

Last night, just before the last song of the evening, Natalie still had this to say: “A real asshole did something real bad this week and made us not ready to make nice but we cannot let the hatred and the anger win out. We can’t leave you guys not ready to make nice.”

So, I guess what comes round goes round and you are better off calling a mass murderer an asshole than, say, the President of the United States. Dixie Chicks made nice for a thrilling two hours of banjo and violin leaning first division country. It is like if Steve Earle had curtailed his folkier aspirations without derailing his left wing aspirations. Not so much up against the wall as do ce not so docile, Dixie Chicks poured out their hits and pushed em through the window. Backed by a standard issue but constant rock band, keyboards, bass, coupla more guitars and drums, the vibe was loud and sweet with Natalie in top voice, and violinist Martie Maguire and banjo player, Martie’s sister Emily Robison, taking everything not locked down. A terrific “Nothing compares To You” was hijacked by Martie’s solo, and Emily, with her banjo swung up like a violin, fiddle through a bluegrassy hootenanny “White Trash Wedding”.

The trio have always been a visual treat, the sisters are long and lean, the lead singer, squarer and shorter, and the two instrumentalists while hardly talkative, neither is Natalie as it happens, have the presence to form a trio around the singer. It is a familial mind meld, an us and against themism very at home in New York, even as it tests and testy’s the country arch from which they arrived here. Dixie Chicks spent years leaning heavily on covers but in 2006, their last album Taking The Long Way, fund the band writing or co-writing all the material. Produced by Rick Rubin, it was a fine album, topped the charts as well. Eight songs out of 25 were from it.

But it didn’t matter if it was Patty Griffitn, Prince or the band themselves writing, the band itself were driving hard and fast, and derailments were far and few between. You excuse a reckless cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mississippi” for an aged well “Landslide”.

The evening began well, a youthful singer songwriter Josh Herbert had more in common with folk than country but a handful of great songs kept the audiences attention. UK world soul band The Heavy followed, a sort of English Double Trouble with lead singer Kelvin Swaby tearing it up especially on calling card “How Do You Like Me Now”.

Dixie Chicks opened well and ended well and everything in between was great. Even a short acoustic set after an outfit change was good. Occasionally, the Prince cover, the Beyoncé cover, a rowdy Goodbye Earl” and a rowdier “Sin Wagon” were all highlights, they were absolutely gleeful. They were good natured and when Natalie told me she loved me, I believed her. I guess after 20 years, they can play as nice as they want to.

Grade: B+

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