Photography by Dave Hogan / Hogan Media
The Chicks have been on a whirlwind tour around the UK and Ireland since their appearance at Glastonbury Festival at the end of last month. But for London audiences used to being spoiled for live shows, the only chance to catch the iconic queens of country was warming up for Bruce Springsteen in Hyde Park.
They began the first of their two nights in the central London park supporting The Boss with a high-rise rattling ‘Sin Wagon’, before unleashing a greatest hits set that included ‘White Trash Wedding’, ‘Not Ready to Make Nice’, ‘Goodbye Earl’, ‘Cowboy Take Me Away’ and ‘Travelin’ Soldier’, as well as their version of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’.
“Are you ready for Bruce Springsteen?” called Natalie Maines from the stage. "That’s Martie, that’s Emily and I’m Natalie and we’re going to attempt some pre-show entertainment.”
It was the latest songs from their 2020 Gaslighter album that stole the spotlight in the late afternoon sun though. ‘Gaslighter’, ‘Julianna Calm Down’ and ‘Sleep At Night’ have added a distinctly pop playfulness to their sound and kept them delightfully out of step with the country mainstream in recent years, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Made up of Maines and sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer and originally hailing from Dallas, Texas, the trickle down effect of The Chicks on the wider pop landscape has been undeniable in recent years; going beyond more obviously indebted country singers like Taylor Swift and Carly Pearce and crossing over, with artists like Waxahatchee, Jess Williamson and Boygenius all giving the band’s influence its credit.
“Are you guys ready for a hootenanny?” Maines asked the crowd, before launching into ‘White Trash Wedding’. “I feel like everyone’s always ready for a hootenanny. And if you don’t know what a hootenanny is, I’ll introduce you.”
They followed ‘White Trash Wedding’ with a blistering mash-up of their Beyoncé collaboration ‘Daddy Lessons’ and ‘Long Time Gone’ before they unleashed ‘March March’, one of the highlights from their latest album, in front of a backdrop of archival footage of political protests from throughout history.
The Chicks have been through a lot over their 25 years together, but their troubles seem to be like anti-Kryptonite to them; they only make them stronger. ‘March March’ - their stand against everything from gun violence to global warming, and reproductive justice - has become a powerful and incendiary anthem of defiance in the face of all the bullshit that love, life and the music industry seems to throw at them.
At just an hour long, their set felt a little lighter on the deep cuts than some of their recent headline shows, but when it comes to seeing The Chicks like this, rejuvenated and revitalised, you just have to take what you can and feel damn grateful to have witnessed it.
Bruce Springsteen might be in town, but the only bosses we’ll be reporting to this weekend are The Chicks. More life affirming and surprisingly subversive than ever.
The Chicks - Setlist
Taken from their set at BST Hyde Park supporting Bruce Springsteen on Thursday, July 6th, 2023 in Hyde Park, London, England.