Dixie Chicks Get Political, Bring Nostalgia and Cover Prince in Michigan

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for PMK
Emily Strayer, Natalie Maines, and Martie Maguire of the Dixie Chicks perform onstage during the DCX World Tour MMXVI Opener on June 1, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

The Dixie Chicks are making nice on their DCX MMXVI World tour, the group's first major road trip in a decade. But its stop at the DTE Energy Music Theatre on Saturday night (June 4) in suburban Detroit showed that the trio is not ready to make all nice just yet.

Since frontwoman Natalie Maine's choice comments about U.S. President George W. Bush in 2004, the band has done battle with the political right and a conservative country music community, which the Chicks dominated during the late ’90s and early ’00s. That may have stalled the three-piece’s forward momentum and led to a prolonged period of limited activity, but the Chicks aren't exactly looking to tow any lines.

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There were messages about Planned Parenthood and the social action organization Proclaim Justice, of which Maines is a board member, as part of a pre-show video package that also included Chicks trivia questions and "random tweets" from Maines. And while there was no political verbiage from Maines (who's back to blonde these days), Marti Maguire and Emily Strayer during the show, they did take a brief swipe at presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump by flashing his photo -- with devil's horns and a fake mustache added -- amidst the rogue's gallery shown on the rear-stage video screen during the vengeful "Goodbye Earl."

In a bit of non-partisan commentary, the Dixie Chicks accompanied "Ready to Run" with a political cartoon that not too subtly panned candidates from both sides of the divide as clowns, while red, white and blue confetti filled the pavilion.

Mostly, though, the two-hour, 25-song concert was steeped in nostalgia, displaying how the three Chicks have grown during the intervening years since their last major tour, and also how well the songs still hold up and how their performance continues to pack the same potent spirit it did a decade ago.

It was certainly a different set of Chicks that hit the DTE stage to "The Long Way Around." The chatty irreverence and self-deprecation of previous shows was gone, and there was no running to and fro satellite stages and extended ramp (the evening's steady rain was not conducive to that, anyway). Instead the Chicks were slick, professional and straightforward, flanked by the five members of their band on a clean, wide open stage space. Their rich vocal harmonies were fully intact, and the arrangements were agreeably lean 'n' mean, ranging from ferocious ("Lubbock or Leave It," "Sin Wagon") to gentle ("Easy Silence," Patty Griffin's "Top of the World," a trio-only version of "Travelin' Soldier"), with majestic renditions of "Wide Open Spaces," "Cowboy Take Me Away" and "Not Ready To Make Nice."

The group accented "Long Time Gone" with a pronounced New Orleans flavor and nailed the blues-rock stomp of "I Like It," while Maines, Maguire and Strayer romped through an instrumental bluegrass-style medley that included snippets of Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" and The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army." And it stretched out Bob Dylan's "Mississippi" with plenty of room for the instrumentalists, to show off a little.

And while there have been no new recordings since 2006, there were additions to the repertoire, including another Griffin tune, the jammy "Don't Let Me Die in Florida," during the mid-show unplugged-style set, and Ben Harper's "Better Way." The Chicks also delivered Beyonce's "Daddy Lessons" with a treatment even rootsier than on Lemonade.

"I think she wrote it for us. She doesn't know that," Maines quipped afterwards.

Maines shone on an emotive cover of "Nothing Compares 2 U," dedicated to the late Prince and performed with his glyph-like logo on the screen.

Early on Maines promised the crowd that the Chicks "are going to attempt to entertain you." No problem there. It was a welcome return and an equally welcome reminder of the abundant merits that took the Chicks to the top before controversy marginalized their impact.

The set list included:

"The Long Way Around"

"Lubbock or Leave It"

"Truth #2" (Patty Griffin cover)

"Easy Silence"

"Favorite Year"

"I Like It"

"Long Time Gone"

"Nothing Compares 2 U" (Prince cover)

"Top of the World" (Patty Griffin cover)

"Goodbye Earl"

"Travelin' Soldier" (Bruce Robison cover)

"Don't Let Me Die in Florida" (Patty Griffin cover)

"Daddy Lessons" (Beyonce cover)

"White Trash Wedding"

Instrumental Bluegrass Medley

"Ready to Run"

"Mississippi" (Bob Dylan cover)

"Landslide" (Fleetwood Mac cover)

"Silent House"

"Cowboy Take Me Away"

"Wide Open Spaces"

"Sin Wagon"

"Not Ready to Make Nice"

"Better Way" (Ben Harper cover)