Belfast Telegraph

Pomp, pageantry and piping at top-class Belfast Tattoo

By Joe Nawaz

I'm no aficionado of military tattoo. The clue may lie somewhere in the surname. So when asked to review the Belfast Tattoo I was slightly trepidatious, which wasn't abated when the Royal Irish Regiment got a massive early cheer.

But all unease dissipated with the non-entrance of the Masked Pipes and Drums. Nervous laughter as they took a little longer than usual to arrive was followed by slow handclaps – piping fans are an unforgiving lot

Two false starts later, the pipes the pipes were finally calling. Disappointingly, they weren't in little Zorro masks as I'd mistakenly hoped.

Instead they were simply massed. But what a mass. Live, it's a rather glorious cacophony of symphonic drone. The sheer aural scale of the thing was like sitting in a deck chair as a specifically tuned 747 flew past. I could almost hear the commentary as the pipers marched and piped themselves into a big impressive tartan triangle: "Kilts a billow and a drone in their hearts the magnificent sight of the masked pipers as they waft past in formation."

Back in the real world, the mix of Scottish and Irish airs was nicely democratic and I swear that after 10 minutes of syncopated rhythms and droning pipes, it almost sounded like experimental '70s German rock. Which is a good thing.

Next up flutes and a contrabass – a 6ft, 3in-wide flute-type monstrosity. From a distance, it looked like somebody had stolen the curtain rails from the Odyssey green room. Kilts were replaced by military reds and blacks as the Star of the County Down struck up, and there wasn't a new knee not being tapped in time with a programme.

Next was a sprightly Whiskey in the Jar. Then they brought out the big guns of the cute kids in sailor suits who hornpiped as of their pocket money depended on it.

By the time of the 37-song medley, Galician pipers and 20 drum majors, there was nary time to refill one's whiskey tumbler with a fresh Ribena.

A genuinely entertaining evening of enjoyably silly pageantry and exhilarating paint-stripping sound.

Four stars

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