Dixie Chicks @ Perth Arena
with Avalanche City
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
The Dixie Chicks may not have had an album of new material since 2006, but that doesn’t stop them from being a stadium filling attraction when they head out on the road. Shows have been few and far between over the past decade, but that has been rectified with their current MMXVI World Tour.
Coming along for the ride for this Australian tour was Dave Baxter from Auckland, New Zealand who plays under the guise of Avalanche City. Baxter was joined on stage by a keyboard player as he made his way through acoustic based tunes from his two albums. The ample beard of Baxter gave him the authentic look of a folk singer as well as having the sound down pat. The easy listening chart topper of Love Love Love was aired among lesser known songs like Drive On and The Streets. A whistle solo is always a bold move, but didn’t cause too much discourse for a crowd that although meeting his pleasant tunes with polite applause, were really just there for the main course.
The Dallas trio know how to set the aesthetic for a stadium show as the backing musicians were all decked out in black attire with all adornments from instruments to microphones and microphone stands being a contrasting white. Couple this with bright LED lights and the Dixie Chicks were at the very least going to be visually stunning.
The band opened with The Long Way Around and invited people out of their seats to dance and celebrate. Little did the Dixie Chicks know that it is a tough ask to get Perth audiences out of their seats and it would take a few more songs before people felt comfortable enough to pry their buttock away from the safety of the blue vinyl. Lubbock Or Leave It can best be described as gritty and this is in the most part due to singer Natalie Maines’ voice. She may not be the most technically correct or pleasantly toned singer going around, but she sure makes up for it by being fierce and a force to be reckoned with.
Dixie Chicks songs were spread amongst a collection of so many cover versions, that you could have been at the Newport Hotel on a Thursday night. Patty Griffin songs were given plenty of air time with Truth #2 and Top Of The World being played early and one hit wonder, Thunderclap Newman’s Something In The Air being given a new lease of life via the adept banjo playing of Emily Robison.
Interspersed between these moments were originals that drew the punters in. Easy Silence was backed by a video screen that showed otherworldly footage. Long Time Gone with its discordant phrasing was trim and taught and Goodbye Earl had thousands singing in unison. Dixie Chicks didn’t try to win over the crowd with gimmicks and dance moves, instead relying on the strength of the song to set them apart form the crowd.
Ever since Nirvana sold a truck load of records by releasing their MTV Unplugged session, you can’t go to a concert without there being an acoustic segment predictably built into the mid-portion of the set. Dixie Chicks would be no different after a quick set change found them sitting on stools at the front of the stage for a well received version of Travelin’ Soldier. The remainder of the band joined the stage for yet another Patty Griffin cover (Don’t Let Me Die In Florida), which even with it’s garbage bin and stomp box for a drum kit, was a bluesy indulgence. Daddy Lessons by Beyoncé was probably the evening’s biggest misfire before the stripped back quota of the set was concluded with a slick Bluegrass Instrumental (which was interspersed with segments of Seven Nation Army and Single Ladies).
The trio went back to what they do best when the whole band returned for Ready To Run and a mass of green and gold confetti was unleashed from cannons scattered around the venue. It was an aurally and visually stunning highlight of the evening. Dixie Chicks are at their finest when they are singing in harmony, and Landslide is probably their greatest indication of this. If the Fleetwood Mac song has to be taken out of Stevie Nicks’ hands then Dixie Chicks are the rightful custodians.
Mega hit Wide Open Spaces was a great sing along moment before Sin Wagon ended the set on a fiery note. Maines had already had some words to say about Donald Trump in the tone of “we have a real shithead of a President in the United States” and as the singer is an avid Twitter user there is sure to more commentary of a similar nature.
It is this spirit that best sums up the Dixie Chicks and why Not Ready To Make Nice is an anthem for the ages. At their best Dixie Chicks are a band not to be missed, but in trying to give the crowd value for money, they only served to water down the high points with overthought indulgence.
Photos by Paul Dowd Photography