Founding member of Red Hot Chilli Pipers can’t wait for Belfast return

Red Hot Chilli Pipers
Red Hot Chilli Pipers

One of the founding members and current Group Director of The Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Willie Armstrong, 53, has revealed how keen the band are to return to Belfast on March 1, 2019.

Offering a unique twist on live rock music which sees the group combine class rock hits with melodic, traditional Scottish tones, the Chilli Pipers have a huge global following and preform 200 shows every year across the world.

Having formed 16 years ago, the band got their big break when they won BBC talent show, When Will I Be Famous, in 2007 and have since performed at the Rugby World Cup 2015 celebrations and Disney Pixars Brave.

But despite this, it didn’t stop fans making a hilarious blunder when they mistakenly purchased tickets to the sold-out show in Belfast earlier this year, under the mistaken impression they were attending American funk rock band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

“That was class, I loved that”, Willie laughs. “It went viral all over the world, people were ringing me from America! Thankfully, as a bagrock band with huge production behind us, we couldn’t be further removed from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and so we certainly aren’t ever trying to emulate them - we have far too much respect for them to try and do that.

“We’re completely different. So much so, that the couple actually loved us and said they can’t wait to come back to our next Belfast show!”

Willie Armstrong

Willie Armstrong

The adrenaline-fuelled, action packed performances of fusion music have certainly made headlines over the years, and retired fireman Willie, who has been playing the bagpipes for over 40 years, says he is always “hugely excited” ahead of each performance, explaining that both roles in his life have required a lot of adrenaline.

“One of my top career highlights was in 2014 when we we opened the main stage on what was the final day at T in the Park in Balado. That is such an iconic venue.

“In 2003, we had performed there with headliners The Darkness. It was surreal to be there in our own right on the last ever day at Balado, opening the main stage. None of us had thought it possible.

“We didn’t know it at the time, but to think no-one else can ever say that they opened the main stage on the last day at Balado is incredible.

“We looked to the side at one point and saw the Kaiser Chiefs watching and clapping along. That was definitely a career highlight.

“Another standout memory was performing Proms in the Park in Hyde Park in London. We’d performed in Glasgow Green a couple of times, but this was in front of 90,000. That was the one time I felt nervous before a show, but then you turn round and play the first couple of bars and the lights and the music take over, and I absolutely loved it.”

The Red Hot Chilli Pipers are set to return once more to the SSE Arena, which Willie - who cites Coldplay as one of his musical inspirations - reveals he cannot wait for.

“The SSE Arena is such a great stage, it is intimate yet huge at the same time, and with the lights and everything it will be an epic, showstopping show. I love coming to Belfast, I love the people and I love the city. My family love it as well. There is no language barrier and everyone is so friendly. I cannot wait to come back!”

It comes as the SSE Arena launched ‘Theatre at the SSE Arena’ in 2015, a draped and enclosed format which turns it in to a smaller intimate capacity for 2,500 visitors with the purpose of creating a smaller and more intimate atmosphere to bring visitors closer to the music.

The theatre format has opened up an abundance of opportunities to target both artists and attendees who prefer the intimate feel of a theatre format but can still enjoy the prestige of an Arena environments, offering a wide diversity of content from music concerts, comedy, theatre, musicals and award shows.