Review: Country’s blandest trio deliver live
Country: Dixie Chicks, 3Arena, Dublin
In 2003, an innocuous and inoffensive country pop band called the Dixie Chicks incurred the wrath of conservative America. Vocalist Natalie Maines said a few days before the US-led invasion of Iraq, "We don't want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas."
Rock stars like Bruce Springsteen or Eddie Vedder essentially say the same thing all the time and no one bats an eyelid, but Dixie Chicks are from an entirely different musical constituency. Virtually the whole country community dramatically turned on them, with the honourable exception of recently deceased legend Merle Haggard.
Thirteen years after Bushgate, Dixie Chicks are still one of the biggest bands and brands in mainstream country music. Despite all the boycotts and controversy, they've sold over 27 million albums in the US alone, and have more than enough of an Irish following to easily sell out the penultimate date of their European tour.
Country music is not normally known for staging dazzling light shows with swish visuals, but Dixie Chicks bring a pop and rock sensibility to their performance.
While the show is slick, some of their music is soporific country pop by numbers. They pay tribute to Prince with an excruciatingly boring cover of Nothing Compares 2 U.
Thankfully, the show goes up a gear with an unexpected bluegrass cover version of Daddy Lessons from the new Beyoncé album Lemonade.
"If Jay Z did cheat on her, it's awesome she wrote a whole album about it," Maines says. "It sounds like the kind of thing I'd do."
Of course, country and songs about infidelity go hand in hand. They pull a few more familiar covers out of the locker, such as Mississippi by Bob Dylan and Landslide by Fleetwood Mac, which they released shortly after the George Bush brouhaha and sunk without trace.
Despite being so middle of the road, they're in danger of being run over, Dixie Chicks do deliver live.
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