Review: The Chicks fly high

By Dan Buchanan

Disclaimer: I'm a 42-year-old dad, the only male in a household containing my wife, three daughters and six female pets (a dog, a cat, two chickens and two budgies). I guess it's not surprising that I ended up at a concert by The Chicks (it helps that the music is very good and my wife and daughters are huge fans).

My Chicks-mad nine-year-old and I headed off to Christchurch's Wolfbrook Arena last night, where queues were speedy (we were fashionably late) and staff were patient and professional.

Opening act Elle King was jaw-droppingly good and by song three had people being sent back to their seats for dancing in the aisles. Her instantly recognisable singles went down a treat live but every song was so good it was hard to pick a favourite, especially with a near-perfect cover of Stevie Nicks' epic 'Stop Draggin' My Heart Around'.

Grammy-nominated King paid tribute to her two-year-old son, Lucky, telling the crowd that he'd accidentally punched her in the face earlier in the evening. "I still love him," King said drily, before launching into a song she'd written for him. Hers was a great performance, backed by an incredible band.

By the time the lights went down to signal The Chicks were taking the stage, we were more than ready. The band ripped into 'Gaslighter' and the crowd was on its feet before the end of the first line, singing along with every word. The Chicks kept up the pace for the next 45 minutes, rolling through some of their best-loved work - 'Cowboy Take Me Away', 'Wide Open Spaces', 'Julianna Calm Down', 'Long Way Around'.

Lead singer Natalie Maines' characteristic vocals were pristine, especially considering that it was the second to last show of a two-year tour. Sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer were equally epic in their harmonies, banjo and fiddle work, each shining when stepping forward for solos before locking back in with the band.

Around halfway, the show had a small, lights down interlude where the stage was rearranged to a more relaxed lounge room-feel. All the musicians were seated at front of stage, which allowed them to introduce a few softer songs, such as 'Landslide' and 'Travelin' Soldier'. Maines also introduced the crowd to her son Slade, who as well as playing guitar in the band had a hilarious sense of humour and had the crowd chuckling along to his confused, rabbit-in-the-headlights facial expressions.

After a few more subdued numbers the stage was rearranged again to bring us to the show's climax. The Chicks have never been afraid to convey their social and political views, and last night was no different. The crowd cheered when Christchurch appeared on a screen at the back of the stage before they realised it was joined by other locations and statistics where there have been mass shootings. The Chicks launched into powerful protest song 'March March', with imagery of Malala Yousafzai, Emma Gonzalez and Greta Thunberg as well as the names of victims of race crimes in the US. It felt like a timely reminder that The Chicks have come a long way and maybe we have too.

Maines then snapped the crowd out of their introspection, telling us about the band's special connection to New Zealand. "We wanted to change our name to The Chicks but there was already a band from here with that name. So we asked them if we could use the name and they graciously accepted. So thank you New Zealand.".

As the curtain came down and The Chicks took a bow or three across the stage, my daughter was wiping happy tears from her cheeks. For me, it was a reminder of how great it is to see your favourite bands live. Take it from us, you'll be kicking yourself if you miss out on The Chicks.

The Chicks play Wolfbrook Arena in Christchurch again tonight.