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Dixie Chicks age maybe even a little better

Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, Irvine, Cal., July 20, 2016

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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Natalie Maines, lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, joked that when she recorded Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" 15 years ago, the line "and I'm getting older too," didn't mean as much as it does today. However, this group, which also includes Emily Robison on (mostly) banjo and Martie Maguire on fiddle, began as a bluegrass act before ever attaining mainstream country success. And bluegrass musicians don't really age; they just become more seasoned over the years.

Before the Chicks even hit the stage, Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" played in its entirety over the PA. And with such a 'hey, let's party' introduction, one expected a wild night ahead. Alas, though, it wasn't overly wild. But it was good.

The only real difference between the Chicks during their '90s heyday and now, was all the screaming girls in the audience way back then. The woman next to me said she never got to see the group back when she was a '90s high schooler. She brought her toddler son tonight, though, so they both could experience their first Dixie Chicks concert.

Another misguided expectation was that the group would get a little political; especially now that the Republican convention was in full swing. But this group that offended conservatives (and particularly conservative country radio) by dissing George W. Bush years ago, only subtly got political during a performance of "Ready to Run," where the video screen was filled with caricatures of various political candidates, capped off with red, white and blue confetti reigning down on the audience. Donald Trump is a huge target, but the only other place we saw his face was when he was shown with devil horns during images of various criminals during "Goodbye Earl."

Prince was saluted once again when the act sang a cover of "Nothing Compares 2 U." It was a lovely, country-leaning version of the song that also served as a painful reminder that Prince's recent, untimely death is still a bit of an open wound.

The Dixie Chicks were at their best during an acoustic segment. In this configuration, they sang "Travelin' Soldier" which has lost none of its emotional impact over the years. The act also covered a Beyonce song, which is certainly not something one would expect from most other country performers. They daringly gave the audience a spot on rendition of "Daddy Lessons," off the most recent Beyonce album, "Lemonade."

Watching the young adult woman next to me singing "Cowboy Take Me Away" and "Wide Open Spaces," the way she must have wanted to do so many years ago, underlined the notion that this was a chance for many to finally seen a favorite band live. And the good news is that the Dixie Chicks are just as good as they always were. Perhaps, maybe even a little better.