The set piece Saturday night performances does not disappoint.
Celtic Connections is now officially in full swing, with an endless stream of great traditional music combined with new modern talent. On Saturday 28 January I had the privilege of seeing one of the most loved bands of the festival: Blazin’ Fiddles.
Blazin’ Fiddles were first formed in 1998, and have had several members over the years. Their current lineup are a collection of people from all over the Highlands and Islands, including Fiddlers Bruce Macgregor, Kristan Harvey, Jenna Reid and Rua Macmillan, alongside guitarist Anna Massie and pianist Angus Lyon. The band have received numerous awards to praise their innovative yet authentic take on traditional Scottish music. For example, they won Folk Band of the Year both in 2013 and 2019, as well as the MG Alba Scots Trad award for Live Act of the Year in 2004. With this joyful band consistently excelling in the fiddle world, it is no surprise that yet again they appeared at Celtic Connections with a truly memorable performance.
The concert happened at the Theatre Royal Glasgow, and though the show itself was a seated one, this didn’t stop the crowd getting on their feet multiple times. The show was set to start at 7.30pm, however due to what the staff called a “minor technical issue”, and what the band called “a major technical issue”, the performance started at 7.35pm with the support band Ævestaden, a trio from Norway and Sweden. They played very traditional Norwegian and Swedish music, all sung in their native tongue using Scandinavian instruments, and setting a good atmosphere for the evening that was to come.
Ævestaden finished playing at around 8.15pm, before a short (which turned into a fairly long) interval, again due to the undecided “minor” or “major” technical issue. Nevertheless, at 9.00pm the band came on and thanked us for our patience, bringing their fiddles to life with their first song, Devil’s Delight. The show swiftly moved between each song, reel, jig and waltz, with tunes such as Call Her Mum, Road to Skye, and Lollipop Waltz, the last one being written by Anna Massie (she said that the song originated from “the local Lollipop man saving my life from a car”). The audience were then greeted with surprise guest Hannah Rarity, who herself had her own show at The Old Fruitmarket. She sang two songs: Shade of Gloria, and a cover of Scotland Yet by the late Davy Steele.
After Hannah Rarity left, the band let loose with several fast-paced jigs, one of which caused Bruce Macgregor to, as he put it, “get a little bit too excited” and send his fiddle flying to the ground. However, the band (professionally) laughed at him and continued the set until he ran back on stage and jumped back into action. At the end of the jig, he exclaimed: “What you saw there was an old trick I picked off Pete Townshend…it’s survived a lot worse, this fiddle is over 200 years old, and it is in better nick than I am.” The show continued with Wally’s Old Trouse and Jenna Reid’s McFall’s March. The band then thanked the audience and walked off stage only to adhere to an encore.
The last song they played was Doddie’s Dream, dedicated to the legendary man himself: the late Doddie Weir. They released the song just after Doddie’s tragic passing in 2022. It is safe to say that this song struck gold with the crowd and the whole auditorium got up, with Hannah Rarity making another appearance, all to sing along to this wonderful fiddle tune.
Overall, Blazin’ Fiddles put on a night of sincere and joyful music, and they are a band I would have the absolute pleasure of seeing in concert again.