Good news: Blazin’ Fiddles are on tour again. Almost two years to the day since their last Eden Court performance, the local favourites are long overdue. It is one of the glorious occasions when the usual order of things is reversed – The Highlands normally have to wait for any cultural ripples of note to spread slowly north.
But not tonight.
Tonight, Inverness is the foot-tapping launchpad for the tour that will take the Blazin’ Fiddles from Pitlochry (11th) to Dundee (12th) and Paisley (13th). After four dates in England, they are set to return to Peebles (18th) and New Galloway (19th) for the end of the road trip. Their new album, simply entitled North, is certainly being given a proper send-off. You could say they are making a thing of it. And what a thing it is!
In its current line-up, the group comprises founding member and fiddle veteran Bruce MacGregor as well as Rua MacMillan, Anna Massie, Jenna Reid, Angus Lyon and Kristan Harvey, all musical heavyweights in their own right.
The show begins with guitar-picking at the speed of light from Anna Massie which sets the pace for the rest of the night. Fiddles blaze all right, but there are interludes for reflective airs and haunting melodies too, most notably Kristan Harvey’s rendition of Braehead Cottage and the near-perfect slurs of The Rose of St Magnus. Local boy Rua MacMillan seems to do things with a bow that are physically (and rhythmically) impossible, but the strength of the band relies not on individual skill, but on the palpable joy of playing together, a sort of feeding frenzy of reels and jigs.
Raucous laughter follows MacGregor’s easy humour and Anna Massie’s dry wit; anecdotes entertain but never ramble; in-jokes are shared and enjoyed by audience and performers alike. There are some empty seats in the Empire theatre tonight; what a waste, because this first night is something spectacular, leaving the audience pleasantly exhausted by the sheer energy on stage. Thankfully, there are more Scottish dates to catch tunes like The Bacon Allocation and The Cambridge Caravan Catastrophe. Anyone within walking, driving or flying distance should get themselves to one.
In short, if this performance does not deserve five bombs then this reviewer has not seen anything in the last decade that does. My foot still hurts from tapping!