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Review: Tubular Bells for Two at Birmingham Town Hall

In 1973, a talented multi-instrumentalist and composer released a complex continuous two piece suite of music that was a seamless blend of pastoral classicism, punk rock, and haunting piano. Tubular Bells would go on to sell millions of copies, bank-roll the early days of the Virgin empire, become the soundtrack to the Exorcist and make Mike Oldfield a household name.

In Tubular Bells for Two, two musicians – Aidan Roberts and Daniel Holdsworth – play between them more than 20 instruments, ranging from all types of guitars, keyboards, tin whistle, vocals, drums and kazoo.

It was perhaps fitting that Luke Oldfield, Mike Oldfield’s son, and his band Gypsy Fingers provided support to his father’s most famous work.

Clearly a talented musician and much more at home in front of the audience than his father, the four piece band played songs from their album, Circus Life, mixing ethereal folk with rock guitar solos and almost jazz like drums and bass. But their strongest songs were the most folky, such as Bruised or The Island, where Luke Oldfield’s Nick Drake-like voice could be heard to best effect.

A quick stage change later and Tubular Bells for Two were on stage. The familiar opening piano and glockenspiels, made famous by the Exorcist, were superbly suited to the grandeur of the Town Hall, but as side one went on, the antics of the musicians became more and more lively. They swapped quickly between instruments, from guitars to bass, using looping pedals to pad out the sounds, and at the closing moments of the movement playing Vivian Stanshall’s role of MC, before the Tubular Bells themselves made their entry.

Side two is generally lesser known and is more peaceful, but the rock elements are more evident, from the screaming lead guitars that dominate the sound mix to the drums which take over during the caveman section, where the lights turned red to highlight the musical bombast that the duo were creating on drums and guitars.

A volunteer wrote this. Say thanks with a coffee.

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