@ Newcastle o2 Academy, March 2 2010

Beards, banjos and Brown Ale. Not exactly your average Tuesday night, but when Hayseed Dixie rolls into town it’s never going to be a conventional.

A decent crowd turned up to witness one of the most unique bands ever to grace the o2 academy stage. And once again the bluegrass band put on an outstanding display.

The ludicrously offbeat Edward Tudor Pole (of Tenpole Tudor fame) proved an excellent warm up for the night’s main attraction. The former Crystal Maze man belted out the top 10 hit Swords of A Thousand Men to a respondent crowd.

His wacky persona combined with old school rock and roll circa Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly proved hard not to love.

Whereas many acts rely heavily on clever backdrops or flashy entrances to get the crowd pumped, Dixie merely stroll on and get on with it.

And that is the main reason why the boys are so popular amongst the older rock fans that turned up in their droves. They don’t need flashy light displays just give them four mic stands and stand back.

A foot-stomping, toe tapping set list included songs from all the monsters of rock imaginable, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Queen and of course AC/DC to mention just a few.

But the guys’ musical influences go far beyond the likes of Plant, Tyler, Mercury and co. even finding space to slot in an outstanding version of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik- Allegro.

To call these guys hillbillies is doing an incredible disservice to the genius that is their music even if it is delivered in dungarees. These are no slack jawed yokels and I would challenge anyone to find a better mandolin player than ‘Deacon’ Dale.

Lead singer John Wheeler’s rapier wit and comedic timing ensures the music never becomes too overwhelming and the boys’ own tracks slot nicely into place amongst some of the greatest songs rock has to offer.

At times the Academy felt like a hoe-down in Louisiana or Virginia with a break-neck speed version of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody proving particularly popular amongst fans.

Banjo player Don Wayne Reno who was outstanding all night go this moment of glory in the finale and boy(howdy) did he take it. Not since Deliverance has a banjo vs. guitar battle sounded so good.

There really was only one song to finish with and the rendition of Duelling Banjos was quite simply dazzling and spellbinding.

Like a drink of Kentucky bourbon the whole night was sharp, full of flavour and will have you reaching for another glass as soon humanly possible.

Andrew Spoors