Photography by Nora Onanian
By Kira Weaver, Staff Writer
Artist: The Chicks
Venue: Xfinity Center, Mansfield
When: Tuesday, July 5th
AMONGST A SEA OF COWBOY HATS
“Where are we?,” a mom standing in the aisle, as I sit in seat W1, asks her daughter. Their voices, along with many others echoing on the outdoor ampiteater’s ceiling, are just now making their way in from the parking lot. Loose and loud, sobriety was not in the country genre-loving crowd’s agenda while planning out their attendance.
As my eyes scan the aisles, I realize I sit amongst a sea of cowboy hats, typically with light washed denim pants and boots to match. These women aren’t of one age range though. Some look like my mom — mid-50s — while others look as if they just finished their freshman year of high school.
Looking at everyone, the dress code almost seems to be named after The Chicks’ most popular song, “Cowboy Take Me Away.” It makes me regret not wearing my own cowboy boots in solidarity, despite my already-formed summer sandal blisters.
PATTY GRIFFIN’S OBSESSION WITH THE MOON
“I’m a big fan of the moon,” show opener Patty Griffin comments two songs into her set. She continues on, talking of how it’s something we all share; how we, the audience, could look up into the sky and stare at the same entity as a far away loved one. The moon allows us to feel connected in that way.
Taking a breath, she picks up guitar and starts to strum the opening to the third song on the set list, “250,000 Miles.” The song, beginning from the bare drowning of repeated guitar chords, builds as we hear Patti’s accompanying guitarist join her on vocals for the first time. I notice how they fit so well together despite appearing to be positioned to contrast, even in their outfits. He wears all black and she is draped in white.
The crowd feeds into the energy. They have this ability with their playing, where they are able to draw the audience in so intensely. Halfway through the song, the instrumentation is stripped back down to just Patti and her guitar and we are left to hear it all again.
The fifth song, “Be Careful,” is one that I notice exudes a similar energy from the audience as the third. They don’t know the track, yet a sense of lulling repeatedness in it makes it feel familiar, like a song a mother sings to her daughter. The lyrics she sings over a simplistic guitar picking pattern remind me of repetitive poetry.
The verses of the song repeat, “All the girls with the washin' rags,” “All the girls on the telephone,” “All the girls standin' all alone.” The only changes from line to line are the last parts of the phrases. Same goes for the chorus, featuring and repeating the song’s name, “Be careful how you bend me,” “Be careful where you send me.” As the song continues, the people are able to pick up on this, allowing them to start to sing along.
Patty Griffin ends the set on a song facing inwards to her guitar partner as they once again talk of the moon, saying “let it be the moon.” Once the song comes to a close she turns to face us all again. She thanks us for listening, ending her statement with “maybe we will see you another,” and then walks away, guitar in hand.
GIVING THE MIDDLE FINGER
During the seventh song on the Chicks’ setlist, “How Do You Sleep at Night?,” there is a more rhymicatic interpretation to the lyrics. Natalie Maines on vocals is using her words, her voice, as a metaphysical punching bag, and the audience can tell. Almost egging her on, they cheer and chant, giving positive feedback to let the rage out. It makes me wonder, is there a published story on the contextual nature of it?
I was moved enough to do a brief google search when I returned home. I realized Maines had a divorice in 2019 that was finalized after an incredibly messy two years prior. Their latest album “Gaslighter,” released in 2020 — not even a full year later — was their first album in over 14 years. Knowing this information makes it feel likely that she turned to music and songwriting as a way to cope.
In the last few seconds of the song, she raises a hand on each hard beat and presents two middle fingers to the crowd. They stay up as the crowd cheers for her and her reclaimed independence.
THE CROWD LOVES A CLASSIC
After the eighth song, the stage becomes darker. The light is made now so that only the outline of the musicians can be seen.
My eyes are drawn to the drummer's raised hands. He holds his sticks above his head and smacks them together with a hardness that I can hear where I am located. The purpose of these clicks is to set tempo for the guitar Natalie Maines comes in with after.
As she starts to play, the stage is flooded with blue light and everything is brightened. She stands alone playing for what feels like a few minutes, but in actuality was close to ten seconds, until Martie Maguire joins in on fiddle.
At this point, it seems like everyone has their phone out to record. Not being a long term fan like some, that was the indicator for me of this being one of their more well known works.
On the lyric “I’m bleeding….” from 'Wide Open Spaces” The Chicks went silent, letting the fans take over the tune, solidifying my earlier thought.
THE “LANDSLIDE” COVER
“A lot of articles said my son was in the band playing drums…..everyone met my son,” Maines said late into the show. She turns her arm, outstretched, to the drummer on her left. She then begins to laugh.
“That’s not my son, that's Jimmy.”
Correcting the articles, she then walks to the right of the stage, over to a guitarist sitting, semi-slouched in typical teen fashion over his instrument. She introduces him as her son, Slade, who is 21.
Maines talks about what it was like to have him at the age of twenty-five. And of the thought process behind deciding to record this famous Fleetwood Mac cover. She shares that she would listen to it back then, resonating with the lyrics. “Ugh I’m getting older too,” she says. And after that line, the crowd started cheering, knowing what was to come.
The whole group spread across the stage, framed by purple lighting. Maines sat center, glancing at her son, then looking back at us. She added in a final word before Slade starts up on guitar with the signature opening picking pattern: “Anyways, here’s Landslide.”
Throughout its entirety the audience sang every word, with a force that didn’t feel pushed, but just strong. It was as if every audience member had their own personal reason to.
After the cover finished, I ducked out quietly in order to catch the last train of the night back into the city. As I make my way to the exit, I hear the crowd’s cheer swooning. I know in the next song, Patty Griffin is supposed to come back out. I strain my ears as I walk away, trying to hear her voice, so focused I almost didn’t notice it had started to rain.