Musicians are more than a bag of hot air

  • Talent group: the Red Hot Chilli Pipers performed at Fairmont Southampton’s Mid-Ocean Ampitheatre

    Talent group: the Red Hot Chilli Pipers performed at Fairmont Southampton’s Mid-Ocean Ampitheatre

Nuclear-powered bagpipes, I suppose, are yet to be invented, but if there are any prototypes out there, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers have surely begged, borrowed or stolen them.

Bagpipes were originally designed to inspire kilted clansman to slaughter as many of the opposition — the English and lowlanders when available, but each other if the southern neighbours had a prior engagement — as possible.

The skirl of the pipes also struck terror into the hearts of the enemy, from medieval times to the D Day landings in 1945.

But the black and red-kilted band, nine-strong in Bermuda, have taken traditional pipes and snare drums, fused them with keyboards, drum kits more often seen in rock bands and guitars and given them a bit of a modern makeover.

A sell-out audience at the Mid-Ocean Amphitheatre on Friday lapped up the results, a high-energy romp that ran the gamut from rock, disco, pop to fresh takes on traditional tunes with a dose of humour thrown in.

But make no mistake, these are serious musicians, several are graduates of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

The band covered Coldplay’s Fix You to 1990 disco classic Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) and Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars.

Grant Cassidy, a world champion snare drummer who plays with the top-rated St Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band from Dublin, entranced the crowd with a display of the skills that have won him titles all over the world.

Chris Judge, a man with some soul in his voice, tackled songs like Avicii’s Wake Me Up and Coldplay’s Fix You with aplomb.

But tradition was not entirely ditched as the band also played mainstream tunes like Highland Cathedral and Auld Lang Syne, but with their own distinctive twist.

The band were joined on stage by the Bermuda Islands Pipe Band and home-grown Highland dancers for Highland Cathedral, which got one of the most rousing receptions of the night.

Highland Cathedral, however, is itself the product of a bit of cross-cultural fertilisation. Despite its majestic and traditional sound, it was written less than 40 years ago by German musicians Ulrich Roever and Michael Korb for a Highland Games in Berlin.

Kevin MacDonald, frontman and the joker in the pack, also led the band through rock anthems like Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls and We Will Rock You.

It takes a brave man to don the mantle of Freddie Mercury, but Mr MacDonald did a splendid job, and for one brief, shining moment, a stocky, middle-aged Scotsman in a skirt, who maybe enjoys the odd deep-fried Mars bar, transformed into a rock god.

Which, if you’re a middle-aged, stocky Scot, really is a bit of a thing.

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Published Jan 22, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 21, 2018 at 7:51 pm)

Musicians are more than a bag of hot air

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