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Review: The Chicks perform unforgettable, career spanning set in Saskatoon (Sept.10/2023)

by Scott Roos

photos by Contingent Colours Photography (Deanna Roos)

The Chicks performed a career spanning set at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon on Sunday, Sept. 10th (photo by Contingent Colours Photography)

“Wide open spaces” It’s a familiar, anthemic refrain that’s essentially carved its way into the collective consciousness of an entire generation… And then some. Released 25 years ago, by The Chicks, in August of 1998, as the third single and title track from the band’s album of the same name, it’s become the ultimate coming of age anthem for many. It’s confident, wistful tone, with relatable lyrics sung by vocalist Natalie Maines accompanied by the instantly recognizable melodic fiddle licks of Martie Maguire, subtle but driving banjo picking of Emily Strayer, all laid over top of a rollicking, danceable, twangy, medium tempo groove, in fact, could be considered essential pop country listening.

Sparing the history lesson, though, this past Sunday, September 10th at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, when the chorus of “Wide Open Spaces” hit, the joint was jumpin’. Thousands of voices joined in with Maines. It was quite likely a very emotional moment for those in attendance who had grown up having not just "heard" the song but also had "lived it". Amazingly, too, at that point in the evening, The Chicks were only halfway done. The audience was metaphorically eating out of the palms of their hands as they had been since the opening notes of their very first song.

Earlier on, singer-songwriter Maren Morris had warmed things up. With her feet firmly planted on country music topsoil, Morris’s overall vibe is also deeply rooted in pop and R&B. Her songs are punchy and interesting and, of course, it’s all anchored by her powerful, emotive voice. As she sang, she danced around the stage. There was a vivacious energy to almost everything that she did. She was awesome. Her band was awesome. Thoroughly enjoyable and very much deserving of recognition here, Morris definitely got things off to a great start.

*Maren Morris delighted the crowd at Sasktel Centre (photo by Contingent Colours Photography)

Once The Chicks took the stage, however, with the big production lights, the massive stage set-up and, of course, the awe inspiring music, the audience rose to their feet, cell phones in hand to capture many of the epic moments that were about to take place. They danced and sang along from the opening notes of “Gaslighter” right to set closer "Goodbye Earl". As things progressed, Maines's wit, poise and poignancy proved captivating. Along with Maguire and Strayer and, of course, a top notch backing band, The Chicks took their fans on an unforgettable musical journey.

An air of expectancy washed over the crowd as The Chicks prepared to take the stage. (photo by Contingent Colours Photography)

*photos by Contingent Colours Photography

Never ones to back down from speaking their minds, the social justice and protest song element was on full display with “March March”, “Travellin’ Soldier”, “Rainbowland” and, of course the unabashedly unapologetic “Not Ready To Make Nice” to name a few.

They played rugged travelers tune “Long Way Around”, the singalong slow burn of “Cowboy Take Me Away”, the raw emotion of “Landslide”, the Fleetwood Mac cover that, dare it be said, The Chicks have made entirely their own.

To be honest, it’s hard to put into words the cultural phenomenon that is The Chicks. They have certainly forged a path both musically and politically that has given them an astounding legacy. At Sasktel Centre, their music and their message was all there and on point. At that moment in time, music became the religion of choice for the thousands in attendance and Sasktel Centre became a kind of de facto church.

The Chicks, in their songs, sang of acceptance, inclusion, and feminine empowerment and the crowd accepted them with open ears and hearts. But, above all else, everyone had a real good time.

Concert Slideshow. Click on photo to see more:

*photos by Contingent Colours Photography

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