Note: Please forgive my not-so-great pictures. I did the best I could!
A little known fact about the Dixie Chicks is that one of the first shows they played after their album “Wide Open Spaces” became a smash hit in the late 1990s was in Maine.
That’s the story Natalie Maines, lead singer, told onstage during the band’s concert at the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor Thursday night.
“One of my favorite shows we ever did was at the Lobster Fest in ’97 or ’98,” said Maines, referring to Rockland’s perennially popular summertime festival. “It was the first time thousands of people knew our songs. It made me think, ‘Huh, I think we might be onto something here.'”
Nearly 20 years later, the trio comprised of Maines and multi-instrumentalists Emily Robison and Martie Maguire has been through it all together — highs, lows, controversy, marriage and children and all the things life throws at you. On their DCX MMXVI World Tour stop in Bangor, their first headlining tour in ten years, the three seemed unchanged from the fiery, soulful young women country fans were introduced to in 1998. They played a two-hour long set that encompassed most of their seven albums and showcased Robinson and Maguire’s top-notch playing and Maines’ gorgeous, earthy vocals.
Though mainstream country shunned them in the mid 2000s after Maines spoke out against the Iraq War, the more than 11,000 concert attendees at Thursday’s show showed nothing but appreciation for the band. They played hits like “Goodbye, Earl,” “Wide Open Spaces” and “Cowboy Take Me Away,” as well as fan favorites like “Sin Wagon” and “Not Ready To Make Nice.” They also nodded their heads to their many diverse influences, including a cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” a cover of Beyonce’s “Daddy Lessons,” a country-fied version of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” during a set change, and a brisk and exciting bluegrass interlude after a three-song acoustic set.
The crowd was overwhelmingly female — many of whom likely grew up listening to the Dixie Chicks, like Lindsay Eysnogle, who came to Bangor with a crew of friends and family to attend the concert.
“When I was 18 years old I skipped school to go buy ‘Wide Open Spaces,'” said Eysnogle, a Little Cranberry Island resident originally from Wisconsin. “There are 12 of us here together. We rented a limo. My aunt and my mom came here from Wisconsin. We’re having a great time.”
The more than 20 songs the band played were accompanied by colorful, evocative video projections, including a montage of men famously arrested or otherwise punished for abusing women during the anti-domestic violence anthem “Goodbye, Earl,” and a satirical projection of all the presidential candidates this year transformed into jaw-flapping puppets. The Dixie Chicks were not ready to make nice ten years ago, and they clearly still aren’t.