(The Chicks: Emily Strayer, Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire. Photos by Aaron Leslie.)
Qudos Bank Arena, October 19
LIVING WELL IS THE best revenge? Yeah, maybe. But better yet is barbed, repeated and shared revenge while you are living well. Now that is the way to do it. Want to know how? Ask The Chicks, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines and Emily Strayer.
The targeted men - and yes, they are pretty much all men - had it coming: principally (extremely) faulty husbands, sanctimonious industry tools and none-too-bright presidential tools. And from the opening song, Gaslighter, a punchy, big-time stomper trampling all over a lying liar from liar town (“Gaslighter, denier, doing anything to get your ass farther …Repeating all the mistakes of your father”), these men got it and they got it good.
The full-throated, double-speed cowpunk of Sin Wagon reinforced the Chicks’ message: you don’t get to tell them how to live anymore. The set-closing power ballad Not Ready To Make Nice said they won’t forget the petty or the major insults. And March March, a quietly militant song of military mien, which tut-tutting NSW police and premier would probably ban as anti-social – even without seeing the screens showing climate, black lives matter, reproductive rights and gun control protestors – showed this was more than personal.
(But hey if you have patient hands, don’t mind someone “a bit more travelled .., a little bit unravelled”, and want to talk all night before bodies get “tangled”, you could stay a while. Just sayin.)
Hard? Hardly. Sure, the night finished with a particularly odious man dead and buried, literally, but even then the sparkling pop-bluegrass Goodbye Earl was a celebration. And that’s the crux. The energy in this room was not anger, it was not even strictly speaking defiance, it was joyous control. Together. Shared.
The raised fingers to the sleaze husband who brought his bit on the side to a show in Sleep At Night and the mocking bite from the done-with-you woman in Tights On My Boat (leftovers from same two-timing husband in case you’re wondering) was everyone’s. The reminder they don’t need the bozos for fun in the bluegrass-laced Ready To Run was gleefully shouted back at The Chicks. The call to do stuff better for the next generation of girls, For Her, had everyone singing along. The ache of the lost to war lover in Traveling Soldier was eased by the comfort of strangers, and the freedom of making choices and allowing for mistakes in Wide Open Spaces? Well … “Who doesn't know what I'm talking about?”
And if you were paying attention pre-show, the message was already signposted in videos of Stevie Nicks, Runaways, Heart, Blondie, 4 Non Blondes (What’s Up, a huge singalong hit in the room) and Joan Jet (tellingly, Bad Reputation). Heroes all. Troublemakers, resisters and groundbreakers in one way or another all. Interestingly, not a country act among them.
In a smoothly moving, slick even show, the three-part harmonies and slow fiddle break of Best Friend’s Wedding were as earthy as the acoustic set’s heel-and-toe-tapping Daddy Lessons, which they have on loan from Beyoncé, and caution was almost thrown to the wind for the boisterous fast-picking, high-stepping glee of White Trash Wedding.
Yes, Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus’s Rainbowland, a minor song in many ways, could have been bypassed, but like the cover of Patty Griffin’s far superior bluesy belter Don’t Let Me Die In Florida, and their modern standard version of Stevie Nicks’ Landslide, it was a nod to influences, inspirations and fellow travellers.
Even more so, it was a nod to unity and community. To living on and living well.
The Chicks play Brisbane Entertainment Centre, October 24-25; Spark Arena, Auckland, October 28; Wolfbrook Arena, Christchurch, October 30-31.
A version of this review ran originally in The Sydney Morning Herald