These guys couldn’t give a bad show if you paid them.
Saturday night was the long-awaited Red Hot Chilli Pipers concert at the Warner Theatre in Torrington. First, a moment of wistful silence for the absence of Malcolm McEwen who, if I have a favorite in the band (and, really, how can I?) might be it; he was not present for this one. I am informed that he is on tour in Asia with his fiancee – and they just missed the calamities in Japan. Thank God – or it would have been something a lot stronger than a moment of silent wistfulness. Safe travels, Malcolm – hope to see you soon. I’m still seriously thinking about red glasses.
However: there still was a modified drum duel, with the two magificent Stevens (Steven ‘Stav’ Black and Steven Graham of the Ferrari hands), so I couldn’t be disappointed – and filling the bass guitar gap admirably was Ben Holloway, whom I had not “met” before. I hadn’t realized there’s a rotating cast of bandmates, which accounts for the different faces now and again; and Ben was fantastic.
Our seats were very good; last time I thought for some reason we were going to be front-ish and center, and we were … not; we were in the balcony. This time I found a seating chart of the Warner that seemed to indicate we’d be in the front corner of the second section of the orchestra. And … we were! It was excellent.
I’ll get two beefs (beeves?) off my chest early. 1) I’ve never quite understood the concept of paying a decent amount of money for a ticket and then getting so drunk you’ll never remember a minute of what you paid for. There was a couple in the last row of the first section, so just ahead of us, who had been going at it hard prior to the concert; he seemed far worse off than she, and she was at least two sheets to the wind. I think he was up to four. Put this way: when you go to clap your hands over your head, and you miss, it’s time to go home and go to bed. Also, when you go to fist-bump a friend, and you miss … see sound-of-one-hand-clapping, above. They did disappear shortly after intermission; I was literally praying that they were staying in the hotel across the street.
2) There was a very young, very full-of-himself security boy in a yellow shirt scurrying around constantly during the concert. He didn’t seem to do anything but scurry and get in our way, but every five minutes or so, there he went. He seemed remarkably put out about people dancing in the aisles for someone working in a theatre that sells alcohol – he tried (ineffectually) to put a stop to it a couple of times, I think, which was futile, earpiece or no earpiece. Officious twit. My sister was beginning to threaten to catch him, tie him up, and put him in a corner. I was more than ready to help.
OK, and that’s all the negativity I have about the concert. (Except the parking was rubbish.)
I’m not going to even try to provide a set list, but among the songs were a breathtaking Amazing Grace (People always ask two questions: can you play Amazing Grace, and what’s under your kilt: yes, and covered in the intro to Gary O’Hagen); “Hey Jude”, which will never be the same in my head again (our side won in the nana-off); Coldplay’s “Clocks”, which I really do prefer with the pipes – I miss them when the song comes on the radio; Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”, just gorgeous; and two new-to-me covers: War’s Low Rider (that was a surprise) and The Who’s Baba O’Riley (wow). I’ve got to say that now I listen to the radio with an ear toward what might be adapted to the pipes. And every time one of “their” songs comes on I smile.
Stuart asked who had been to Scotland, then who wanted to go to Scotland; his two pieces of advice for going to Scotland were:
1) Bring clothing appropiate for all weather, because in the space of one day you could go from shorts and t-shirt and sneakers to six pairs of socks and a jumper (which he adorably corrected immediately to “sweater”), to a raincoat. (So – like Connecticut, then.)
2) Go to Argyll. He believes it to be the most beautiful part of Scotland; it has lochs, and glens, and the Loch Ness Monster, and wee haggises running about (having just a few days ago come across this I almost fell out of my seat) … A Scottish POW in WWII was so homesick for his Argyll that he wrote a song about it – and Dougie gave it to us on his pipe, which was goosebump-raising, and the Manchester Regional Police and Fire Pipe Band rejoined them. Again, I have never, ever, seen a standing ovation in the middle of a concert. Much less several.
Stuart has in the past told about how he wrote a song in college, and misplaced it for a while, and then rediscovered it. This time all he said was: Two things we should know about him were that he’s always late, and he always gets lost. “This is The Lost.” I’ll need to learn it for the many times I’m lost. I have a new theme song. (I love Dougie and Kevin – but I voted for you in Pipe Idol, Stuart!)
Among the Chillis, who as I said are all my favorites, I have to single out Nick “The Firestarter” Hawryliw, who is just tremendous, and I’m not just saying that because he left a comment on my blog last time. He does, indeed, put the “rock” in “bagrock”. One of my favorite things in all the world is a lad in a kilt and sneakers, and Firestarter is not only that: he is a rock god. It has to be said that telling many people I know that a guitarist in a bagpipe band is a rock god would raise skepticism. All I can say is “You haven’t seen the Firestarter.”
I talked in my post about my first RHCP concert about the deep and awed adoration I feel for these guys, in which it’s very obvious I’m not alone (it was, I heard, a sold out house, most of which tickets went through CPTV pledging, with twice the cost per ticket). What’s wonderful is that they seem to feel the same way about their audience. There is a sheer indefatigable joy in their performances, in the giving and in the taking. Stuart as spokesman expressed it: they’re grateful, they never dreamed they would be playing – especially playing bagpipes – in front of screaming sold out audiences. And they know how lucky we and they are to be able to enjoy ourselves so thoroughly when so many are in the midst of so much trouble. And they don’t forget how they came to be here. (Thank you again, Gail, and again, and always.)
After the concert I happily tracked down Gail McClellan of The Olde Burnside Brewing Co./Ten Penny Ale and Pipes in the Valley, who with her husband Bob were responsible for contacting CPTV and saying “We have a show you need to see”. “We hear that a lot,” said the CPTV rep who introduced the concert. But this was different. This was the Red Hot Chilli Pipers. Gail said the boys will be headlining at Pipes in the Valley again this summer (*clears schedule*), and after that – who knows? With luck, nothing but onward and upward. And it might be awhile before they hit Connecticut again. And I hope that’s true, in that they deserve a fully national stage – they deserve to be well-known throughout the country. We mustn’t be selfish. But lads? Remember: Connecticut loved you first. Y’all come back now, y’hear?
Thank you for posting your always insightful blog on the RHCP. Since I live in Georgia, and can only tell my friends down here about them, (they have yet to make an appearance in the South), I look for any web-posts to explain our RHCP fanaticism! I especially like your y’all come back, but I know you were not sitting near me since my side LOST the nana-off). Thanks again.
Thank you! It’s great to hear from a fellow addict- er, fanatic. With luck, the Chillis’ next American tour will be more extensive and the South will get to see them.
>my side LOST the nana-off
Hee! That was down to the fiver I slipped Steven Graham. (Kidding! :D )
Great article but truth is NYC loved them first. Their first show in these United States was at Connollys in Times Square. The FDNY Pipe Band got them their first gig here!! Always a great show no matter where they play.