First US shows since dramatic flame-out an acid-test of fans’ memories, writes Emily Yahr.

The Dixie Chicks, one of the highest-selling female bands in music history, are back in business.

Their first concert in a decade is in Cincinnati in front of thousands of fans. It's a significant moment for the Texas trio, as it marks the first time in 10 years they'll headline a tour in America.

After everything that happened with the polarising group, who would have ever thought they would return?

With major success in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Dixie Chicks became one of the highest-selling female bands in history with albums from Wide Open Spaces to Home. Then everything imploded in March 2003 when lead singer Natalie Maines uttered her famous statement about President George W. Bush during a show in Britain, close to the invasion of Iraq: "We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas."


Country music fans reacted with horror - the Dixie Chicks were soon dropped from country radio and their hit single at the time, Travelin' Soldier, plummeted from the top of the charts. As shown in the documentary Shut Up and Sing about the aftermath of the controversy, one country station invited people to trash their Dixie Chicks CDs; another scene showed a bulldozer crushing a huge pile of albums. The group lost sponsorship deals and ticket sales, and were vilified on the internet and by some fellow Nashville stars. Not to mention receiving death threats.

In the midst of it all, the group released one more album, the fiery, unapologetic Taking the Long Way, and went on another tour in 2006 - some dates had to be scrapped because of lack of sales. The tour wrapped in Dallas in December 2006; a couple of months later, Taking the Long Way won a bunch of Grammy Awards. After that, it appeared the Dixie Chicks were done.

Until now. In the last decade, the trio tried out some new projects, as Maines recorded a rock album and sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire formed a bluegrass duo called the Courtyard Hounds. A few quick European tours as the Dixie Chicks and scattered dates opening for the Eagles in America aside, this is the first time they'll attempt a headlining tour (titled DCX MMXVI World Tour) in the United States since the fallout.

The question remains: How will it go when they return to the country where they're still considered polarising? While the Cincinnati opening-night tour stop is sold out, tickets are still readily available for some shows in other areas. So much time has passed, but when you say "Dixie Chicks" in America, people still vividly remember the controversy.

"What sucks is where people's opinions used to be a truer opinion about our music, now it feels tainted," Maines recently told the Oakland Press. "If someone hates it, it's probably because they hate me politically. So the judgment of it just isn't as honest and pure as it used to be."

On their recent European leg of the tour, the crowds were thrilled to see them.

And no, in case you're wondering, they're still not afraid of speaking up about politics.

On a screen during the European shows, there were caricatures of all this year's presidential hopefuls when the group played Ready to Run.

And during their famed hit Goodbye Earl (about two women who poison a physically abusive man), the screen showed a picture of abusive men throughout history - and an image of Donald Trump with devil horns.