In our futile and transient time on Earth, life-changing moments are few and far between. Every so often, there are days and nights which define our entire being, reminding us why we’re here. Sunday night was one of them. It was the night I finally got to see musical legends: my idols, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.
In the Disken family, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers have been elevated to God-like status. Fans of the band reading this will undoubtedly be thinking ‘rightly so’, but for the uninitiated allow me to digress for a paragraph or so into what may be an incredibly boring anecdote. My family were holidaying in Scotland when we stumbled across a CD of the Pipers in an otherwise fairly canon gift shop. My younger cousin, then only about six years old, listened to it, and, of course, loved it. “Buy me this for Christmas!” he excitedly told my auntie. This was in May. He forgot. My auntie, however, true to her word, bought the CD, wrapped it neatly, and placed it under my grandma’s Christmas tree. On the evening of December 25th, what will now forever be a fateful evening, my cousin excitedly unwrapped the present. Upon seeing the Red Hot Chilli Pipers CD he did something no child should ever do on Christmas Day: he cried.
Well, his tears quickly became our joy. Converging on the CD faster than a group of vultures on a rotting carcass, Christmas tunes quickly faded into the harmonious tones of the humble bagpipe. In that instant, everything changed. The rest is history.
Heading down to the Tyne Theatre and Opera House, I have never been more intrigued by a gig. It was entirely seated. It had an interval. As the room filled up around me and my cousin Megan, who of course was equally as excited as me, the crowd was the weirdest mix of people I’ve ever seen. There was somebody from every walk of life, and that is no exaggeration. To the left of us sat a young boy and his mother. In front was a man with a Pipers t-shirt. There were old couples, young couples, middle-aged couples. We even stumbled across a group of fourteen-year-old girls. I was fascinated by these people. These were the hardcore Piper fans, the ones who were willing to shell out twenty-five quid for a ticket. Clearly this was going to be an unforgettable night.
And so it was. As soon as the lights went down, it was obvious this was going to be a gig like no other. With three bagpipe players, two guitarists, two drummers, a keyboard player and a singer, the stage was pretty packed, yet you never felt overwhelmed by the volume of people onstage. The soothing Scottish lilt of the band members as they interacted with the crowd between songs captivated you entirely. You forgot you were in a room with hundreds of other people. It felt, at times, almost like a numinous experience.
Every aspect of the show was well thought-out. The band eased the crowd in with a few fairly standard tunes, giving new fans a taste of what they were in for, whilst tantalisingly hyping up die-hard fans as they resisted playing one of their incredible covers. “We want to see you on your feet dancing by the end of this!” bagpipe player Stuart Cassells yelled excitedly into the microphone. Looking down my row at the people stuck resolutely to their seats, it was clear this was going to be like turning water into wine. Yet I had faith that if anyone could do it, the Pipers could.
And indeed they did. After an incredible cover of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’, which I must say is greatly improved by the presence of bagpipes, the crowd were suitably hyped. At the back of the audience, a group had gathered, waving their phone torches in the air. This was no arena tour, but at times it felt like it. There was a feeling of palpable excitement in the air. The tension built. It was nearing the interval, and for a second I worried they would exit on 'Fix You'. Not the Pipers’ style, I told myself. The song ended. The lights faded once more. And then, without warning, it was straight into the Red Hot Chilli Pipers greatest song. “EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!” Megan screamed, turning to me. “IT’S EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!”
If you only listen to one Pipers song, make it ‘Everybody Dance Now’. There is no greater sound in the world than the sweet transition from a singer screaming ‘everybody dance now’ straight into bagpipes blasting away. Scotland may have churned out the likes of Calvin Harris and Annie Lennox, but ‘Everybody Dance Now’ places the Pipers firmly as Scottish music royalty. Before the interval, they had succeeded in their goal. The crowd was cheering. Everybody was dancing. The Tyne Theatre and Opera House has never been more alive.
How could they top that? Was the second half of the show going to be half-baked? Megan and I spent the interval fretting this over a slush. Why didn’t they play ‘Everybody Dance Now’ last? What could possibly be the closing song?
Well, dear Courier readers, you guessed it – the Pipers did top the first half. Like Voldemort with every new Horcrux, the Pipers seemed to become stronger after every song. Although no song could ever compete with ‘Everybody Dance Now’, their cover of Avicii’s ‘Wake Me Up’ came close. It was an incredibly surreal feeling to be surrounded by people of all ages, all jamming out to this dance anthem reimagined on the bagpipes. The Pipers proved that in this divided age of walls and Brexit, they are the saviours who can reunite the country. Maybe if Theresa May blasted out the Red Hot Chilli Pipers in Parliament on the day of the Brexit vote, she’d stand a chance of winning.
The gig culminated in a cover of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You.’ Everybody was up off their seats. The young boy and his mother were dancing excitedly, hand in hand. Feeling elevated and incredibly hyper, Megan and I joined the multitude of people already dancing their hearts out just below the stage. The entire of the Tyne Theatre and Opera House stood united, clapping along to the song, one people under the spell of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers. It was incredible. It was emotional. It was without a doubt one of the best gigs I have ever been to, and that is no exaggeration.
If you ever get the chance to see the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, go. Trust me, you will not regret it. In fact, it will change your life forever.