On Wednesday night at an amphitheater in Cincinnati, the Dixie Chicks will take the stage in front of thousands. It’s a significant moment for the Texas trio, as it marks the first time they’ll headline a tour in America in 10 years.
After everything that happened with the polarizing group, who would have thought Natalie Maines, Emily Robison and Martie Maguire would ever return? With massive success in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Dixie Chicks became one of the highest-selling female bands in history with albums from “Wide Open Spaces” to “Home.” Then, of course, everything imploded in March 2003 when Maines uttered her famous statement about President George W. Bush during a concert in Britain, close to the invasion of Iraq: “We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”
Country music fans reacted with horror — the Dixie Chicks were soon dropped from country radio, and their hit single at the time, “Travelin’ Soldier,” plummeted from the top of the charts. As shown in the documentary “Shut Up and Sing” about the aftermath of the controversy, one country station invited people to trash their Dixie Chicks CDs; another scene showed a tractor crushing a huge pile of albums. The group lost sponsorship deals and ticket sales, and were vilified by the Internet and some fellow Nashville stars. Not to mention receiving death threats.
In the midst of it all, the group released one more album, the fiery, unapologetic “Taking the Long Way” and went on another tour in 2006 — some dates had to be scrapped because of lack of sales. The tour wrapped in Dallas in December 2006; a couple of months later, they scooped up a bunch of Grammy Awards (including album of the year) for “Taking the Long Way.” After that, it appeared the Dixie Chicks were done …
… until now. In the last decade, the trio tried out new projects, as Maines recorded a rock album and sisters Robison and Maguire formed a bluegrass duo called the Courtyard Hounds. Though they performed as the Dixie Chicks on quick tours in Europe and had scattered dates opening for the Eagles in America, this is the first time they’ll attempt a headlining tour (titled DCX MMXVI World Tour) in the United States since the fallout.
The question remains: How will it go when they return to the country where they’re still considered polarizing? While the Cincinnati opening night tour stop is sold out, tickets are still readily available for some shows in other areas, where the group is playing some pretty big venues. So much time has passed, but when you say “Dixie Chicks” in America, people still vividly remember the controversy.
“What sucks is where people’s opinions used to be a truer opinion about our music, now it feels tainted,” Maines recently told the Oakland Press. “If someone hates it, it’s probably because they hate me politically. So the judgment of it just isn’t as honest and pure as it used to be.”
On their recent European leg of the tour, the crowds were thrilled to see the Dixie Chicks — they remain quite popular overseas. And no, in case you’re wondering, they’re still not afraid of speaking up about politics. On a screen with background graphics during the European shows, there were caricatures of all this year’s presidential hopefuls when the group played “Ready to Run.” And during their famed hit “Goodbye Earl” (about two women who poison a physically abusive man), the screen showed a picture of abusive men throughout history — and an image of Donald Trump with devil horns.