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Live: Top Of The World Tour

When it's my turn to march up to glory, I'm gonna have one hell of a story, wails Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines near the end of the group's first live album - and she isn't kidding.

Natalie's anti-Pres. Bush remarks last March earned her group protests, radio bans and even death threats. But that overheated reaction had another, unintended effect: it turned the simple act of playing music for an excited crowd into an act of defiance, willpower and plain ol' Texas nerve - and ensured that this 22-track double CD would be soaked in high drama from end to end.

The actual political content here is slight - a reference to free speech rights, a recommendation to vote - but every note of Top of the World is played in the shadow of controversy, and so every rapturous round of applause sounds like a pledge of solidarity and an urge to keep fighting back. When Natalie sarcastically squeals, "Oh, Lord, please forgive lil' ol' me!" during the closing "Sin Wagon," it's hard not to think of the apology she issued back in March - or the way it was roundly rejected by the group's critics. Luckily for her, the delighted screams that greet that line may turn out to be all the forgiveness she needs.

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