Billy Ray Cyrus prances for the crowd that made him

FILE PHOTO An exciting year in the unbelievably fast-paced life of country music superstar Billy Ray Cyrus is captured on 'BILLY RAY CYRUS: A YEAR ON THE ROAD.'

FILE PHOTO An exciting year in the unbelievably fast-paced life of country music superstar Billy Ray Cyrus is captured on 'BILLY RAY CYRUS: A YEAR ON THE ROAD.'


As twilight cast its deep-blue shadows and the sun set over the Batman roller coaster at AstroWorld Saturday, the disappointing score at the Billy Ray Cyrus concert was: shirt - minus 1; lingerie - 0.

For someone who had never been to a Billy Ray concert, the anticipated scenario was something like this:

Billy Ray comes onstage, he sings a song that's NOT Achy Breaky Heart, takes off his shirt, sings Achy Breaky Heart, takes off another shirt, sings Achy Breaky Heart again - sort of a one-man Chippendale show. And hearts aflutter, the fans shower him with silky unmentionables that alight breathlessly at his feet.

The crowd filtering into the Southern Star Amphitheater was scanned for lingerie launchers: young families, retired couples, a half-dozen toddlers wearing Little Miss Louisiana banners and tiaras that kept tipping off their heads and messing up their little hairdos, 6-year-olds whose Billy Ray Cyrus shirts ended somewhere between their knees and their ankles, and a yuppie in a Jerry Seinfeld T-shirt. Not exactly the types to be hoarding a cache from Victoria's Secret.

Also, given the gulf between the seats and the stage, it seemed unlikely you could get enough velocity even from the front row to hurl something skimpy onto the stage. Anything with less heft than a 1950s girdle would seem fated to fall in the security moat.

Making an entrance like Muhammad Ali and greeted by peals of delight, Billy Ray came out hopping, skipping, dodging, throwing a quick punch or two into the air.

With his locks cascading down his back and his jeans so tight they were laced up on the side, he seemed intent on proving critics wrong by singing a steady supply of songs from his first album, Some Gave All, and the upcoming It Won't Be the Last. He even delivered an a cappella Star-Spangled Banner accompanied only by the screams from the audience and the whir of the roller coaster.

OK, so sometimes his hips will swivel spontaneously, or he'll find his back to the audience as his hips ticktock left and right.

OK, so he finally has to take off one shirt after the fans beg him to do it. He's only doing it to please them, of which he reminds them as he takes off his shirt: "Whatever you read about Billy Ray Cyrus, this is the truth - I live my life for you people."

These are the reasons he's the Dan Quayle of country music (well, Achy Breaky has something to do with it, too), the target of a relentless barrage of criticism and bad jokes.

They're also the reasons there's an amphitheater full of mothers, wives and teen-agers yelling, "Take it off!"

The security moat was filled with a cadre of men who started the concert with Secret Service demeanors, keeping a suspicious eye on the rose-wielding, Instamatic-packing fans, but who ended up being complacent rose-bearers for the star as they took the flowers from the crowd and piled them neatly at the edge of the stage.

Billy Ray was two-thirds of the way through the night before the first undergarment sailed over listeners' heads and landed on the stage.

When Achy Breaky finally came it wasn't just a song, it was an event. The band began the beat. Billy Ray sang, "Don't tell my heart" and then thrust the mike into the crowd, and the hot yellow stage lights beat down on the fans, who were now on their feet in the humid summer heat and singing the rest of the verse with gusto.

Then the band played the beat again, and Billy Ray pranced about the stage.

The mothers were screaming. The wives were screaming. Even the toddlers were screaming for Achy Breaky.

Achy Breaky was the grand finale, and the band left the stage. But not Billy Ray.

While the recorded music of other bands played on the loudspeakers, Billy Ray stayed as the fans screamed for more.

For a half-hour he basked in the adoration. He walked around the stage, donned sunglasses, caught stuffed animals and roses. He played with the animals, made them dance.

The crowd was chanting, "Bil-ly Ray! Bil-ly Ray!"

He did his fighting dance. Once in a while he'd get a rather stunned look, as if he'd just been punched in the face, or would suddenly lift his T-shirt to show his chest. A couple of brassieres were tossed; Billy Ray draped them over the microphone stands. He bent over to receive the roses, looked right into the lenses of people snapping pictures of him. If you waved and shouted "Billy Ray, " and provided he could hear you over the din, he would look over and smile.

Finally, it was time to go. The roadies were onstage disassembling the equipment. Unmentionables hung from three microphone stands. Billy Ray gathered up his roses and toys and, cradling them in his arm like a frail ballerina, walked out of the spotlight.

More Culture

Buzz | How a small, West Texas drama entered the Oscars race
Legend | Willie Nelson to celebrate 90th birthday at all-star concert
Local | A guide to Houston's most vibrant murals and street art
Inspire | New Brittney Griner comic book dives into career, Russian jail

For the latest and best from Chron, sign up for our daily newsletter here.