Any classic rock enthusiast will tell you that ACDC are pretty good. So are The Who and Deep Purple, but don't you wish sometimes they could be a little more... bagpipey? Though you may have strolled past a souvenir shop on the Royal Mile one too many times to consider this entirely original, there is still something thrilling about hearing the recognisable melody to a huge song eked out on a set of bagpipes.
Backed up by a formidable rock band, the trio of pipers take a traditionally static, straight-backed instrument and use it to turn themselves into full-blown rock stars. Moving in time with one another or peeling off to lean back onto the stage, this is far from what you'll hear or see along Prince's Street. By creating their own 'BagRock' genre, the Chilli Pipers set up a show that is at once highly competent and very much tongue-in-cheek; we even witness a bagpipe speed playing competition, and what I can only think of as a Bag-Off between one piper and guitarist, culminating in an awe-inspiring rendition of ACDC's ‘Thunderstruck’.
With not a single note sung by human voice, it's hard to imagine how modern-day hits can be pulled off with such depth of emotion, but a particularly touching version of Snow Patrol's ‘Chasing Cars’ certainly brought a tear to my eye. Aside from this, though, the natural limitations of the pipes do make some songs sound very similar. It falls therefore upon the players themselves to create a show interesting enough to keep us entertained. Fortunately, they are all dab hands at this - whether by rocking to and fro swing band style or bobbing in time to their playing or with their supporting trio of dancers. The Red Hot Chilli Dancers could have a show all their own, feet a-blur and faces full of enthusiasm.
With three pipers, three dancers, three horn players, two guitarists, a two-strong rhythmn section and keys, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers' stage is full to say the very least, with up to fourteen performers sharing the scant space. Somehow, though, no highland dancers collide with enthusiastic bassists, and even the world-record-holder snare drummer gets his time in the limelight.