After landing 33 country music awards in two years, including two Grammys and two Academy of Country Music Awards, and releasing the biggest-selling country album by a duo or group, the Chicks were ready to launch their first headlining tour. The tour was in its first month when it hit Sacramento, Calif., on June 15, playing to a sold-out crowd.
Opener Patty Griffin warmed up the crowd with a country-tinged rock set, playing tunes a little tougher than the Chicks' pop sound. Between Griffin and the Chicks' set, a boisterous, silly emcee worked the crowd, giving away T-shirts and footballs and coaxing audience members into dancing and clucking like chickens, while a huge remote-controlled fly floated around the arena.
The Chicks' show was heavy on mellow tunes; at one point, a large red velvet couch rolled onstage and the girls perched upon it to sing a couple of slow songs, including a cover of Sheryl Crow's "Strong Enough" that recalled the strong harmonies of Crosby, Stills and Nash. The very young crowd didn't seem to make the connection to Crow, however, and sat still through most of the song.
A rousing rendition of "Cotton-Eyed Joe" got them back to their feet. "We played all the best street corners back then," said singer Natalie Maines, referring to the band's beginnings in Texas, "and here's one we used to do." Martie Seidel then jumped right in with amazing skill on her fiddle.
Maines' voice was not the highlight of the show. Although she achieved a Stevie Nicks-ish raspy warble at times, and knew well enough to not hold the higher notes for too long, she came across as sounding whiny and strained at times. However, when singing in conjunction with the other two Chicks, she found strength that helped her voice carry above theirs and sound stronger.
It seemed that the entire audience attended the show for the sole purpose of hearing "Goodbye Earl" live. As the (very entertaining) video played on the three large screens behind the set, the band was nearly drowned out by the cheering and singing crowd during the song, their first encore. They closed with the sweet, slow "Wide Open Spaces," also a crowd-pleaser and "what it all started with," according to Maines.