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Dixie Chicks
December 1, 2000
At The Compaq Center
Houston, TX

by Samuel Barker
December 6, 2000

Dixie Chicks!!! When dealing with an elaborate stage setup, timed effects, and various other pieces of eye candy for your audience, you don't get a chance to change your set up much. For the Dixie Chicks, their changes involve playing their favorite covers at that particular time. However, these changes are limited to 2 or 3 songs, so the fact that these women can put on a show with the same energy and enthusiasm every night is amazing, considering they deal with the same set, effects, and setlist every night. These women don't slow down, however, and put on a great stage show. Their musicianship is supurb, and live performance is one of the best.

The Dixie Chicks also make a point to have openers who are more on the independent side rather than huge country stars. The opener for this show was Joe Ely. Coming from Austin, Texas, Joe is a well known country rocker to most people in Houston. His set was short, but it was sweet. He covered his songs as well as covers of musicians such as Jimmie Dale Gilmour and Robert Earl Keen. He made sure everyone enjoyed his set, but also made sure he wasn't out there long enough to bore the Dixie Chicks fans. Joining Joe on stage was long time steel guitar player, Lloyd Maines who is Natalie's father. I was impressed with him pulling double duty for the night. His steel playing with Joe Ely showcased his talent more than his complementary role with the Dixie Chicks.

After some intermission games and excitement, it was finally time for the Dixie Chicks to come out. Just as the previous time I saw them, a large tarp fashioned to look like a pair of pants covered the stage. As the "fly" fell so did the pants, and the show was underway. The first song of the night was "Ready To Run". I was expecting that, but I never expected Natalie to look as she did. Beginning to show her pregnancy, she was in a pair of bell bottom jeans, and a black long sleeve shirt. She was all decked out in her relaxing clothes. I was more intrigued by her after seeing this. The casual dress made you feel more at home during the set.

The night rolled on without missing a beat. The energy displayed by the Natalie, Martie, and Emily was amazing. They were totally into it from start to finish. They played all their best songs. I was happy they played "Hello Mr. Heartache". It's got a great old country feel to it, and showcases their attention to where country music comes from. When people like Faith Hill are making pop albums and calling them country, the Dixie Chicks are working to make sure people can still hear something truely country on the airwaves.

The best technical moment of the show were "Cold Day In July" which had an awesome snow effect. I was out of the machine's reach last time, but this show I was right in it's path and got the full effect of standing under the "snow" and watching the show. It added a very magical feel to the evening. The rising moon during "Cowboy Take Me Away" was also very wonderful. The Dixie Chicks do a wonderful job of illustating the moods of their songs. The dropping of a red satin curtain during "Sin Wagon" was great. It added to the whole sultry, lustful mood of the song.

The show also had it's funnier moments. The best comic relief of the night was given to us when they began talking about Natalie's baby and showing what the baby should look like by mixing the pictures of the parents together. They then began showing what all sorts of people would look like if they had babies with them. The best was when they crossed Martie with Bill Clinton and got Pinochio. Natalie's spill about them becoming known as a "bad girl" band because they wrote a song about killing a wife beater was amusing, but had a nice serious punch as well.

The evening closed with my favorite thing I've ever seen a band do. For their first song of the encore, "Goodbye Earl", Natalie went to the back of the floor section to sing and play bass, Martie went to the left upper section of the seats to play mandolin and sing, and Emily went to the right upper section to play banjo and sing. It was nice because they made sure everyone, even the people in the top sections got a good close up view of the band they came to see, The Dixie Chicks. At the conclusion of that song they made their way to the stage and played their final song, "Wide Open Spaces" which was great. Everyone in the entire venue sang along, and the mood was perfect. It's an amazing feeling to be with 20,000 people singing the same thing and in the same general mood. It's a magical feeling that takes a magical band to pull it off, and The Dixie Chicks are a magical band.

Samuel Barker is a Senior Editor. Contact him at suma@rockzone.com.

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