SSE Arena, Belfast
3rd December 2016
Photos by Gerry McNally Photography
We’ve never lowered ourselves on Folk and Tumble to tossing out that trite Satchmo quote about folk music. You know the one;
“All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard a horse sing a song.”
Well, it’s bang in the middle of Christmas party season and if that’s not a time for lowering your standards then what is!
While we’re on the subject of Louis Armstrong quotes, there’s also the famous:
“We all do ‘do, re, mi,’ but you have got to find the other notes yourself.”
And well, here’s the thing. The multi-award winning, live tour de force of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers will find notes in familiar tunes you never knew existed. Yes, you read that right: Pipers, not Peppers. While Kiedis and Flea and the lads have been boring middle-aged rockers with half-arsed raps about California for decades, these feisty Scots have been cultivating their niche and becoming one of the finest live acts in the UK.
And there’s nothing more folk than bagpipes. From marching tunes to old clan ballads, the soaring notes of the pipes have floated through highlands and lowlands for centuries. Their first mention in Ireland was back in 1581 but no one could ever have anticipated them played like this.
The Red Hot Chilli Pipers like to rock out. From the off, they’re riffing through medleys of classic rock. Fleeting glimpses of Deep Purple, Guns and Roses and AC/DC meet with approving nods, slightly mellowed head nods and applause.
There are more tender moments with the likes of Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’ and Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ where the band are joined on stage by the Omagh Community Choir beaming at the prospect of entertaining an SSE Arena crowd.
More than a one-trick pony, every member is an astounding musician, none moreso than multi-World-Champion snare-drummer Grant Cassidy. His drumming wouldn’t be out of place in any championship pipe band and brings a new dimension to well-known tunes.
There’s more than pipes on stage with a full rock band, brass section and highland dancers all adding to the spectacle.
Highlights of the set are the Ulrich Roever and Michael Korb penned ‘Highland Cathedral’, Queen’s ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ and a rockin’ version of The Who’s ‘Baba O’Reilly’. After two hours, the band still has the energy for a rousing pre-Christmas ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and the Belfast crowd joins hands and joins with the choruses.
It’s a world away from our usual show, it’s good clean fun and we leave with pints in bellies and a highland tune in our hearts.
It’s only rock and reels but we like it!