The Chicks brought their 2023 World Tour to Auckland and Elle King was along for the ride. Both acts got the crowd singing and swaying as the tour faced down its final few dates.
The Chicks are, of course, formerly The Dixie Chicks, the multi-platinum-selling trio who shortened their name in 2020 with the blessing of the original Chicks from New Zealand…one of whom was in the audience tonight.
The 34-year-old King (Rob Schneider’s daughter) is three albums deep into a very promising career, having already been nominated for three Grammys. Her and her band showed us why with a set that focussed on her soulful voice and strong songs from her latest album, Come Get Your Wife. Hopefully she’ll return with a headline show of her own…Powerstation perhaps?
The Chicks’ set could be seen as starting almost as soon as Elle left the stage. The video screens played back a series of music clips from classic female rockers such as Heart, Pat Benatar, Tina Turner, Stevie Nicks and finally, 4 Non Blondes’ What’s Going On, which had the crowd singing along at volume before the headliners even stepped on stage.
It was quickly apparent this was a big, slick, well-thought-out, highly orchestrated show with constant synchronized images, a brilliant light show and a backing band to kill for.
For the record, they are: Keith Sewell (bandleader/guitars), Matt Rohde (keyboards), Sam Sims (bass), Jimmy Paxson (drums) …Jimmy is from Christchurch…, Owen Barry (guitar/mandolin) and Slade Pasdar, the 21-year-old son of lead vocalist Natalie Maines who played guitar and startled the crowd with his goofy mugging when being introduced by his mum “I raised a weirdo” she remarked.
And then there are The Chicks themselves…Natalie front and centre, singing lead and playing some guitar, flanked on either side by sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer. Both sing while Martie plays primarily the fiddle and Emily primarily the banjo.
The 2-hour set kicked off with Gaslighter, the title track from their latest album, their first in 14 years…the lights, the visuals, the singing, the playing where top notch from the start.
A feisty Sin Wagon followed, proving the Chicks had not forgotten about the string of hits that made them stars 20+ years ago.
“Well, hello Auckland!” Natalie announced after performing Julianna Calm Down, an early highlight. Then these “New Chicks” paid tribute to the “Original Chicks” pointing out the one (Judy Donaldson) who was in the audience.
While they were thinking local, I thought they might perform Silent House, a tune Neil Finn wrote with them, but instead we got the standard setlist with The Long Way Round coming instead.
Natalie’s been through a divorce which was clearly not amicable after hearing My Best Friend’s Weddings…”I prefer my own company to yours anytime”…and Tights On My Boat.
Eventually the band moved to the front of the stage and the line of musicians got semi-acoustic staring with Beyonce’s Daddy Lessons, Cowboy Take Me Away and Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide…see there’s Stevie again!
From there Natalie announced a new song prepped for this tour…the Miley Cyrus/Dolly Parton tune Rainbowland which we were encouraged to sing along with (lyrics provided). It’s a song recently banned in an elementary (primary) school in the U.S. after being deemed “controversial” for its inclusive message.
Of course The Chicks have never shied away from controversy and they have a song for every cause, be it gun control, Black Lives Mater or female empowerment. And there’s nothing wrong with that…I’m on board with the lot of them, but, I will say, the final third of the show did feel a bit preachy.
Otherwise, the show closed with White Trash Wedding…”that’s enough silliness, time to get serious” wisecracked Natalie.
Then on to Not Ready To Make Nice and finally, Goodbye Earl.
I say, finally, because by this time it did feel like sensory overload. Maybe it was just me, maybe not…I did see fans heading for the doors a few songs before the finale.
But for others, such as the woman sitting in front of me, singing along to every song, there could never be too much Chicks.
Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Chris Zwaagdyk:
The Chicks set list:
- Sin Wagon
- Texas Man
- Julianna Calm Down
- The Long Way Round
- My Best Friend’s Weddings
- Sleep At Night
- Ready To Run
- Travelin’ Soldier
- Wide Open Spaces
- Tights On My Boat
- Daddy Lessons
- Cowboy Take Me Away
- Don’t Let Me Die In Florida
- March March
- For Her
- Everybody Loves You
- White Trash Wedding
- Not Ready To Make Nice
- Goodbye Earl