LAFAYETTE, Louisiana, June 30th - Chicks far outnumbered hicks and cowboy hats were as hard to find as hen's teeth when the Dixie Chicks landed at the Cajundome, a giant brink drum of an arena in Lafayette, Louisiana. A month into their first arena headlining tour, which will keep them on the road until October 29th, the Chicks' sassed-up nouveau country was reaching far afield of typical C&W demographics and doing big business - the 12,000 Cajundome tickets were gobbled up well in advance, and the shows were averaging $500,000 and change in gross profit per night. "It's all about girl power," explained Jeanna Aubin, 20. "It gets your adrenaline going."
Especially when NYPD Blue's Dennis Franz, playing the wife-beating title character in the "Goodbye Earl" video, gets offed on-screen in the show's encore. Earl's demise followed a smartly paced ninety-minute set drawn equally from the Chicks' two major-label albums and bolstered by such scripted surprises as Bonnie Raitt's "Give It Up or Let Me Go" and Sheryl Crow's "Strong Enough."
Backed by a six-piece band, sisters Martie Seidel and Emily Robison and lead singer Natalie Maines flashed their considerable chops on fiddle and electric banjo, respectively; opening act Ricky Skaggs joined them on bluegrass mandolin for a lickety-split instrumental that quoted "Dixie Chicken," the Little Feat song that inspired the group's name. Maines, in knee-high Nancy Sinatra boots, was all spunk when she belted "If I Fall You're Going Down With Me" and "Sin Wagon." She and the sisters were downright congenial all night; Robison thanked both the little girl who handed her a bouquet and the roadie who swapped out her guitars.
But don't cross Maines. "Are you trying to look up my skirt?" she scolded a hapless male down front. "There is nothing up there for you." Girl power, indeed.