Dixie Chicks' Nashville Show Heavy on Hits, Light on Controversy

For the first time in a decade, trio returns to the city whose music industry once shunned them

The Dixie Chicks played their first Nashville show in a decade. Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for PMK

The Dixie Chicks could have easily, and rightly, stuck it to Nashville during the Music City stop of their DCX MMXVI tour Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena. After all, the country music industry largely gave the Chicks the cold shoulder following lead vocalist Natalie Maines' controversial remarks about President George W. Bush in 2003. But the trio of Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer, backed by a solid five-piece band, stuck to the music in a highly entertaining two-hour show practically void of any feather-ruffling.

"Long time no see!" exhorted Maines, following "The Long Way Around," the Chicks' unblinking philosophical statement. It certainly had been for both band and audience, as the threesome last played Nashville more than ten years ago. "I love what you're wearing!" Maines added with a smile.

The remainder of the Dixie Chicks' concert absorbed the feel of a rock extravaganza, as fans stood and cheered throughout, even during the quieter moments provided by songs such as "Easy Silence." Maines, the feisty focal point of the group, proved that she can still belt with fervor on "Some Days You Gotta Dance" and "Long Time Gone." Fiddle player Maguire and multi-instrumentalist Strayer electrified both as complementary players and individual virtuosos. As always, the harmonies were impeccable.

Hats must be doffed as well to the eye-popping digital images on the screen that played behind the trio on each selection. Rather than serve as distractions, they actually enhanced the songs as the accompanying videos matched the lyrics and were perfectly synched with the music. On the darkly humorous revenge epic "Goodbye Earl," for example, tightly-edited images of strong movie heroines and pioneering women appeared onscreen. For added effect, a banner headline of O.J. Simpson's notorious trial plus a caricature of Donald Trump in devilish horns and beard also flew by.

Trump would have seemed a natural target for some well-aimed barbs by the liberal-minded Chicks. But the closest political statement came with "Ready to Run," as cartoonish depictions of Trump, as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and other politicos ran across the screen in hilarious fashion, drawing roars of laughter from the audience. Give the trio points for at least taking an egalitarian approach. If desperately seeking controversy, one could always cite the semi-nude dude who brought out a birthday cake for Strayer's 44th birthday, as celebratory balloons wafted about the stage.

Before the show, a couple of isolated protesters outside Bridgestone yammered on about sorrow and repentance, drawing mostly indifference from onlookers. Inside, however, joy and positive vibes prevailed as the Chicks balanced their set with their acoustic take on Beyoncé's "Daddy Lessons" and favorites like "Cowboy, Take Me Away," "Sin Wagon" and "Wide Open Spaces." No one felt the need to repent.