Under the Dome

Dixie Chicks return with first tour in a decade, unapologetic politics

It has been 10 years since the Dixie Chicks were on tour, and even longer since their music was ushered off many country radio stations for their unpopular politics. But they were in classic form – both musically and politically – Friday in Raleigh.

Originally famous for songs like “Goodbye Earl” and “Wide Open Spaces,” then for negative comments about fellow Texan George W. Bush after the start of the Iraq War, the singers brought back their hits and their liberal politics to a jam-packed Walnut Creek Amphitheater.

They took aim at North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2, often called the Bathroom Bill, after mentioning they had considered boycotting the state because of it – as many other bands have done since March.

“We have a favor to ask,” lead singer Natalie Maines told the crowd after a few songs. “Since we didn’t cancel our show – you’re also the only state we bought gifts for – could you pull out the hats that we gave you? ’Cause we love to support positivity. Peace and love, peace and love.”

Before the concert, volunteers passed out hundreds of hats with the astrological symbols for male, female and transgender on them. The hats read “No hate in our state” and Maines then took a selfie with the crowd behind her, many cheering and donning the hats.

North Carolinians, Maines said, should be able to “go to the bathroom without anybody asking to check your genitalia.”

House Bill 2 did not create bathroom police who look at people’s genitalia before they use a public restroom. It did mandate that people can only use the bathroom of their “biological gender,” meaning a transgender woman who dresses and identifies as female but was listed as male on a birth certificate would need to use the men’s restroom. It’s the only state with such a rule, and the rule only applies in government buildings like schools, universities and state offices.

Two songs later the band launched into an emotional tribute to Prince, the gender-bending musician who died earlier this year, with a cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U” that swapped out the original saxophone solo for slide guitar and fiddle.

Rep. Chris Sgro of Greensboro, a Democrat and the only openly gay member of the N.C. General Assembly, was in line picking up a stack of VIP tickets before the concert started. He’s also the executive director of Equality NC, an LGBT advocacy group that has been at the center of much anti-HB2 activism. The group later tweeted out its thanks to the band for coming and giving out the “no hate” hats.

But the politics Friday night weren’t limited to North Carolina. During a rocking tune called “Ready to Run,” the massive screen behind the band played a satirical animated video of the numerous failed and still-running 2016 presidential candidates.

There were elephants and donkeys in clown wigs and makeup, plus bobblehead caricatures of candidates making unattractive faces. Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton squared off wearing American flag boxing gloves. In the background were waves of floating hot dogs and apple pies.

Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran