LIVE: The Dixie Chicks @ SPAC, 6/11/16

Review by Greg Haymes

The Dixie Chicks have had quite the roller coaster career, but they certainly seemed to be back on the upswing on Saturday, as they delivered a generally rousing, two-hour-plus concert to kick off the 2016 summer concert season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. And despite the fact that Kenny Chesney was headlining the Taste of Country Music Festival at Hunter Mountain and country star Craig Morgan was headlining the Americade concert in Lake George – both on the same night – more than 17,000 fans choose the Dixie Chicks.

Of course, the Dixie Chicks’ musical palette has always extended pretty far the usual borders of what’s considered country music today, but at SPAC diversity seemed to be the battlecry, as Natalie Maines, Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire paid tribute to Prince (“Nothing Compares 2 U”), Beyonce (an impressive, sit-down reading of “Daddy Lessons”), Bob Dylan (a Cajun stompin’ version of “Mississippi”), Fleetwood Mac (a sweet but uninspired rendition of “Landslide”) and Ben Harper (ending the concert on an optimistic note with their encore of “Better Way”).

It’s been a decade since the band mounted a major U.S. tour. They don’t have a new album to promote. And they don’t have plans to record one, either… which may explain the cover-heavy setlist. Or perhaps they feel that they no longer have anything to prove.

But they weren’t just coasting. Maines is still the focus, lead singer and sparkplug of the band, and she was in excellent voice. Sisters Emily Strayer (banjo, lap steel, Dobro) and Martie Maguire (fiddle, mandolin) chimed in with harmonies, although it was a bit difficult to hear them over the very loud, very enthusiastic gaggle of young woman singing only slightly off-key in the row behind me. I imagine there were many pockets of similar fans peppered throughout the amphitheater and the crowded lawn – they came to party.

The Dixie Chicks were quite ably backed by a solid five-piece band, who shined brightest during the mid-show informal sit-down performance of the crowd-pleasing bluegrass hoedown, “White Trash Wedding.” They were also backed by a gigantic floor to ceiling video screen that was as distracting as it was enhancing.

“We are the Dixie Chicks, and we are going to attempt to entertain you tonight,” Maines explained early in the show. Mission accomplished…

Josh Herbert opened the show with a brief 20-minute romp through five of his uptempo pop songs, followed by the seven-piece British R&B band the Heavy, with singer Kelvin Swaby leading the way through such catchy soul nuggets as “What Makes a Good Man” and “How Do You Like Me Now.”

Reprinted with permission of The Times Union

The Long Way Around
Lubbock or Leave It
Truth No. 2 (Patty Griffin)
Easy Silence
Favorite Year
Some Days You Gotta Dance
Long Time Gone
Nothing Compares 2 U (Prince)
Top of the World (Patty Griffin)
Goodbye Earl
(video interlude: Ace of Spades)
Travelin’ Soldier (Bruce Robison)
Don’t Le Me Die in Florida (Patty Griffin)
Daddy Lessons (Beyonce)
White Trash Wedding
(instrumental bluegrass medley)
Ready to Run
Mississippi (Bob Dylan)
Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
Silent House
Cowboy Take Me Away
Wide Open Spaces
Sin Wagon
Not Ready to Make Nice
Better Way (Ben Harper)

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