Despite frigid temperatures in Syracuse February 7th the city was on fire! Not only because our beloved Orangemen were setting the town on fire and leading their division in basketball, but because The Red Hot Chilli Pipers were setting the stage on fire at the Syracuse Palace Theater.
Opening the show in true Celtic Style, the Syracuse Scottish Pipe Band began the evening warming up the crowd with traditional sounds and a spectacular drummers light show. If you haven’t seen these folks, they are a band of approximately 36 pipers who have played locally and competitively since 1973. Truly a Syracuse gem and the perfect way to begin a show featuring the Pipers.
Second to take the stage was Hobo Graffiti, a local rock band, who gave the audience a taste of the rock and roll side of what the evening had in store. With Kris Wiechmann on vocals and acoustic guitar; Tommy Matkowski on 6 & 12 string acoustic guitars; Chuck Kahl playing upright bass; Kevin Dean playing bass, snare, cowbell, tambourine, and ride cymbal; and Heather Jones finishing out the group with vocals and guitar, this band gave the audience a taste of what they have deemed as their own style of rockabilly and dirty rock. Their strong vocals and amazing musical talents once again confirmed what a mix of musical talent is here locally in Central New York.
Under the cover of darkness, The Red Chilli Pipers took the room by storm with the opening song “Insomnia” demonstrating just what was in store for the evening. Traditional bagpiping music was not on the set list, instead the evening would be more than two full hours of the most non-traditional bagpiping you would imagine with the perfect bass, keyboards, guitar, percussion, and sound & lighting to accompany. I personally love when bands begin with a strong foot stomping number to bring the crowd to their feet first and foremost and trust me when I tell you, this was truly foreshadowing for what was to come.
They did not let off all night with constant playing and sound offs between bagpipers Willie Armstrong, who when not piping is saving homes and lives as a fireman; Craig Munro who has been recently featured playing in Disney’s movie Brave; and the crowd favorite Gordon “Dougie” McCance who constantly wins the pipe off as the others claim it’s not based on talent but on the cuteness factor during their “Tag Team Jig”. We also saw spectacular drum battles between Grant Cassidy who is referred to often as the as having the fastest hands in Scotland on the snare drums (aka the Ferrarri of drums), Steven Black on full drums, and Paul Jennings on cajon and bongo drums. These musicians are top notch and true performers giving the show of their life each and every night.
The music was a mix of their own and amazing covers of songs such as Coldplay’s “Fix You” and “Clocks”, Kings of Leon “Use Somebody”, ZZ Top’s “Gimme All Your Lovin”, War’s “Low Rider”, Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”, and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”. At one point and time they even had the whole audience up participating during C&C Muisc Factory’s “Everybody Dance Now”. With Alan McGeoch on bass, Gary O’Hagan on keyboards, and Ben Holloway on electric guitar the pipers and percussionists had the perfect accompaniment on each and every number.
It was however the encore number though of their newest release Avicci’s “Wake Me Up”, and crowd favorite Queen’s “We Will Rock You” that showcased each and every one of them as true artists and performers.
Syracuse could have been -50 degrees and these guys still would have melted every girls heart and heated up the stage like only The Red Hot Chilli Pipers can. I can’t even imagine on a hot summer day how anyone would survive one of their shows.