The Dixie Chicks must be feeling a bit of vindication as they roll into the Tacoma Dome for their show Saturday night. After taking lots of...

The Dixie Chicks must be feeling a bit of vindication as they roll into the Tacoma Dome for their show Saturday night. After taking lots of heat for singer Natalie Maines’ anti-Bush remark at a concert in London in March 2003 — “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas” — Tuesday’s election showed that more Americans are coming around to her way of thinking.

But the war drums were beating loud when Maines spoke out. It was only days before America invaded Iraq. Fear is a powerful emotion, so it’s not surprising that many country fans went into a tizzy, demanding the Dixie Chicks’ heads. At the time, the Chicks had the No. 1 country single with “Traveling Soldier,” a song, ironically enough, in support of U.S. troops, from their No. 1 album, “Home.”

Country-music radio stations banned the Chicks. Some sponsored anti-Chicks events, including hiring bulldozers to roll over Chicks’ recordings provided by listeners. The group got death threats, and one of their houses was vandalized.

In the midst of the hate campaign, the Dixie Chicks released their latest album, “Taking the Long Way.” And it entered the country-album chart at No. 1. “A fluke!” their critics cried. Wrong again. It stayed at No. 1 the following week, showing that many fans remained loyal.

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But even now, three years into the war, the Chicks are still being dissed. At the CMA Awards earlier this week, they didn’t win anything — because they weren’t nominated, despite having one of the best, and biggest-selling, country albums of the year.

“Taking the Long Way” is still in the country top 20, six months after its release. In fact, it scored the greatest gain of any country-music album in this week’s Billboard, rising from No. 26 to No. 18.

The sales boost is probably due to the opening, in some major cities, of “Shut Up & Sing,” a new movie documentary about the whole mess. It opens in local theaters next Friday.

Concert preview

Dixie Chicks, Bob Schneider, 8 p.m. Saturday, Tacoma Dome; $39.50-$65 (206-628-0888, or; information, 253-272-3663, or

The filmmakers, Barbara Kopple, a two-time Academy Award winner, and Cecilia Peck, intended to make a non-political documentary about the Chicks’ tour, mainly because the Chicks are the best-selling female group of all time, with more than 25 million albums sold. But the filmmakers got more than they bargained for. Which makes for a fascinating documentary. The movie, which I saw in a preview, ends with the Dixies steadfast, unified and triumphant.

The film shows that the Chicks are musicians to the core. As artists who believe in themselves, they will not, they cannot, back down. They keep singing and playing, and keep loving it, and so do their true fans.

The Chicks have got it all. Maines is a gifted, powerful singer, guitarist and songwriter, Martie Maguire plays a mean fiddle and Emily Robinson (her sister) is a whiz on banjo. Their three voices harmonize beautifully.

In their lively two-hour set, they play the hits from all their albums and much of the new CD.

And Maines makes a point of repeating her opposition to the war at every show. Following the election, she’ll probably say it in Tacoma with more gusto than ever.

Patrick MacDonald: 206-464-2312 or