Performing Friday night for an adoring hometown crowd of 20,000 on their first United States tour in a decade, the Dixie Chicks kept the focus mostly on the music - though not entirely.
During "Goodbye Earl," a seriocomic song about a wife who deep-sixes her abusive husband, a photo of Donald Trump with hand-scribbled devil horns on his head flashed above the stage on a massive video screen. It was only visible for a half-second, but it was long enough to elicit a dismissive cheer from the audience.
Yet the more telling images came during a cartoon montage in "Ready to Run": There was Hillary Clinton in clown makeup and wig right alongside a jester-ized Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Nearby, an animated Bernie Sanders danced absurdly.
The Chicks might have gotten into hot water with Natalie Maines' anti-George W. Bush, anti-war statement in 2003, but their only non-message today is that all politicians are buffoons -- not just those on the right.
For the most part, the two-hour show was one big, belated victory lap for a trio that emerged from Dallas to became the most popular female band in country music, selling 30 million copies of four studio albums, back when such things were still possible.
Country, of course, has been Taylor Swift-boated during the band's long hiatus. Perhaps in response, there was a more modern look and feel to show: Maines sported a buzz-cut left temple and striped shirt, looking like a member of a German synth-pop band circa 1983.
Yet the bluegrass and country influences were fully intact. Martie Maguire's lyrical fiddle remained the trio's lead instrument, fueling a hootenanny overhaul of Beyoncé's recent hit "Daddy Lessons," a tale of girl power and gun-retribution that dovetailed nicely with "Goodbye Earl."
Emily Strayer's dobro lit up "Don't Let Me Die in Florida" - the latest in a string of Patty Griffin songs the Chicks have covered - and she teamed up on pedal steel with Natalie's dad Lloyd Maines for a lovely version of Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U." Bidding adieu to fans with Ben Harper's idealistic "Better Way," the group devoted a big chunk of the two-hour show to songs they've never recorded - a slightly risky move, but one that paid off, thanks to Maguire and Strayer's exquisite picking and bowing.
Maines started the show on a slightly awkward note by complaining about the heat, saying she hadn't lived in Texas in 10 years (she lives in Los Angeles with her actor-husband Adrian Pasdar), and admitting the band had air conditioning units blowing cool air at them onstage.
But any feathers Maines might have ruffled among in wilted, sweat-drenched masses were smoothed over the second she opened her mouth to sing "Long Time Gone," "Wide Open Spaces" or "Cowboy Take Me Away." Backed by a chorus of thousands of worshipful young women in jean-shorts and boots, the Dixie Chicks were nothing short of long-lost heroes, coming home to roost.
Thor Christensen is a Dallas writer and critic. Thorchris2@yahoo.com