Music review: Fiddlers’ Bid with Frigg

Celtic Connections 2018
Celtic Connections 2018
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HOW best to commence a Shetland/Finnish fiddle-band double bill? “Let’s have a Bulgarian tune,” was Chris Stout’s answer, as he led off the former troupe, Fiddlers’ Bid, opening a show which saw both acts ranging majestically far and wide from their respectively rich home traditions, also encompassing tunes and influences from Estonia, Romania, Scandinavia and the US, together with classical and even heavy metal elements.

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall *****

Despite their near-identical, seven-piece instrumentation – four-fiddle frontline, bass and guitar, plus harp/piano for the Shetlanders, mandolin/cittern the Finns – the contrast in their sounds and repertoires made for a hugely rewarding night’s music, much of it original in each case.

When they work up a full head of steam, Fiddlers’ Bid are still fuelled by the same hectic fervour that’s been their hallmark – together with outstanding talent, even by Shetland fiddle standards – ever since they formed as schoolboys.

Over 25 years on, though, it’s allied with a wealth of seasoned creative sophistication, displayed here in both daredevil high-speed ensemble jousting and gorgeously arrayed slower numbers, including a Nordic-accented waltz ending with an immaculate live fade, dwindling exquisitely into pin-drop silence. Given the ambitious complexity of such material, extra-special praise is due to fiddler Ross Couper, who stepped in for a flu-stricken Maurice Henderson, and did the gig on a day’s rehearsal.

Frigg likewise distilled a virtuosic abundance of tonal, textural, rhythmic and dynamic variety into their exultantly thrilling yet phenomenally tight set, one of the highlights of which was a fabulously wild Finnish/Balkan mash-up and an AC/DC-inspired polska, while a blissfully sumptuous finale united all 14 players onstage.

SUE WILSON