Live Review: Billy Ray Cyrus, Derek Jones, Travis Collins

23 March 2018 | 5:39 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

"'How about you all settle down before you give me an 'Achy Breaky Heart'... I wasn't plannin' on breaking a sweat,' he announces while taking that trademark hat off to wipe his brow."

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We have some mad Travis Collins fans seated beside us who reveal they actually came along to see him rather than Billy Ray Cyrus, having first clapped eyes on Collins as Adam Brand's guitarist. Collins is a good looking rooster with oodles of charisma plus bucketloads of talent, so we can absolutely see why. After confessing he's had a lotta lean years in pursuit of a musical career, which has often meant "scabbing money off his wife", Collins adds things are looking up at the moment since he picked up his first Golden Guitar last year. He actually collected three; including Single Of The Year for the song he presents next, Just Another Girl. Our neighbours in the booth swoon.

Collins then tells us his "wild as hell little brother" is in the house, dobbing in said brother for singing Achy Breaky Heart - the first song Collins related to (by tonight's headliner, obviously) - with him when they were kids. There's a lotta substance to Collins and he generously puts himself out there, revealing his song Call Me Crazy led to his becoming an R U OK? ambassador. Collins hollers, "What happens on the road..." We reply, "Stays on the road!" He cracks up, since his song that follows, What Happens On The Road, actually ends differently: "...Goes on the internet." Telling us this song is based on a true story about someone currently up on stage, Collins then cheekily points to his bassist, identifying him as the culprit while he's not looking. Throughout the majority of What Happens On The Road, Collins grabs his own phone, films us and encourages all to look lively and wave our arms about. Cheesy, but a whole lotta fun.

Although we're expecting the headliner to hit the stage after intermission, on wanders lone guitarist Derek Jones after a lengthy, old-school big-ups intro. Jones tells us he wrote his opening song about a saying his town has, "That's the way it's been." He has a whiskey-soaked, gravelly timbre and one song has shades of The Beatles' Norwegian Wood in the chord progression. Somethin' Different brings the LOLs (check these lyrics - "and my long hair won't cover up my red neck"!). A five-piece backing band joins Jones on stage to "raise some hell" (at Jones's encouragement) for his final song. Then in swaggers the man himself, Billy Ray Cyrus in trademark hat, cascading locks, checked shirt, scarf, thight jeans and boots while we're still clapping his mate.

Cyrus is instantly the real deal and the band remain on stage, opening with Wher'm I Gonna Live? (which Cyrus later reveals he actually wrote at seven o'clock in the morning "not in the best circumstances"). His backing band comprises a bunch of hot shots from Nashville and that lead guitarist/bandleader Chris Condon is something else! I Want My Mullet Back reminds us that the mullet game in tonight's crowd isn't as strong as one might expect (except for that one bloke wearing a novelty wig). Cyrus still has it and there's a whole lotta hip swinging and posturing going on up there. Their rendition of Johnny B Goode is next-level and Cyrus sure is a character! "How about you all settle down before you give me an Achy Breaky Heart... I wasn't plannin' on breaking a sweat," he announces while taking that trademark hat off to wipe his brow.

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And Cyrus takes plenty of time out to compliment Collins, announcing "the internet song" would be a sure-fire hit in the States. "I just remembered I'm thirsty!" Cyrus admits before wetting his whistle. During Could've Been Me, Cyrus shakes as many fans' hands as possible, a queue forms up the centre aisle and he's gifted a bunch of red roses with a couple of clip-on koalas attached. His song about Vietnam vets, Some Gave All, is a thing of beauty and the keyboardist gets his time to shine here. A lady wanders straight up the centre aisle, waves what looks like an American flag scarf at Cyrus and then places it on the stage. (He later wears this item, which prompts the fan to wander back down the front to snap some evidence that he rates her gift.)

Cyrus then bigs-up Jones, spruiking his new record Pray, which came out last week, before telling us it went Top Ten (we're not sure in which chart). Cyrus then lets Jones take lead vocals on Meant To Be - nails it! - before the legend lures us to our feet to sing and clap along with a cover of the raunchiest chastity song out: Keep Your Hands To Yourself by Georgia Satellites ("No hug-EE, no kiss-EE until I get a wedding ring"). Cyrus then calls Collins out on stage, hands him the mic and he takes a verse, transforming The Palms into a hootenanny. After Collins' appearance, Cyrus repeats, "That internet song is a smash!"

Introducing Stand Still, the title track from Cyrus' pre-Hannah Montana TV show, Doc, which Cyrus tells us he wrote for his dad. After telling us one of his recent singles Hey Elvis has been getting some radio airplay over here, Cyrus says that's what he's been told and he's buying into it. "Have you heard it?" We have now and it's an absolute cracker! The millisecond Achy Breaky Heart starts, everyone is (obviously) on their feet singing along with every lyric. At first we're like, 'As if you wouldn't close with that song?', but then Jones takes the mic, the band crank into Copperhead Road and the duelling guitar work on display is astonishing. What a deadset legend Cyrus is to champion young artists in this way during the entirety of his own set!

All of these outstanding musicians are then introduced by the keys player, one by one, to receive their individual and well-deserved rounds of applause. A rollicking treatment of Johnny Cash' Folsom Prison Blues concludes proceedings and Cyrus showcases his impressive vocal range when tackling the song's baritone depths as the circular screens arching across the stage's back wall become revolving red roses thanks to some visual effects.

Punters are still squealing their approval when the house lights come up and Glen Campbell's Rhinestone Cowboy plays over the venue sound system. His band leave the stage, but Cyrus remains to mingle and hand over sweat-drenched towels to fans as souvenirs. One lady even gets up on stage for a hug and winds up disappearing side stage. The song finishes, in comes Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline and Cyrus is still up there, shaking hands and chatting with fans. Gotta respect that.