Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells “For Two”

Mike Oldfield‘s Tubular Bells was hugely successful when it was released in 1973 and became even more well known when it was used in the film “The Exorcist”. The studio produced album featured overlays of Oldfield playing a huge range of instruments and more than 30 musicians were needed to perform it live. In 2012, Oldfield performed it at the Olympic opening ceremony to a TV audience of millions. So you might ask yourself: what more can be done with this piece of music, is it not done to death? Well, the answer is no, there is still plenty of life in it and you will be left amazed and impressed by this performance. This isn’t just a faithful recreation of, and tribute to, the album, it is an experience for the two performers, the extremely talented young Australian musicians Daniel Holdsworth and Aidan Roberts, as well as for the audience.

When the curtain goes up, you see on stage a huge variety of instruments and your first thought is “how on earth are they going to be able to do this?” In fact for most of the first half you are on edge waiting for them to mess up as they literally run from instrument to instrument to bring them in on cue without breaking the flow of the music. However, eventually you relax into just enjoying the spectacle and the music. Even when they do actually make a mistake – as when they drop a drumstick – they are able to retrieve it just in time and the music flows on perfectly.

The first half builds up slowly with the mesmerising motif from the Exorcist and gradually gathers pace to the finale and the introduction of the various instruments – mandolin, keyboards, drums, every kind of guitar and finally of course those iconic tubular bells. You are left in awe at their virtuosity and skill.

By the time Act 2 kicks off you are now fully engaged and able to immerse yourself in the music, slow and gentle at first and then building up into a fusion of rock and folk. The audience loved it and gave them a well-deserved standing ovation.

Tubular Bells ‘For Two’ was a big hit at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe and will be back again this year following an extensive tour of the UK. On the basis of this show and its reception I think it has a good few years of life left in it.

Rosa Brownlee