Live Review: Tubular Bells For Two – Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre (11.01.12)
January 11, 2012 by Larry Heath
Really that just about sums up my personal feelings about the whole show, stemming out of pure, deep jealousy for how two people can be so damn talented. The two musicians in question are Daniel Holdsworth and Aidan Roberts, both of folk rock band The Maple Trail (Daniel also of The Saturns), who back in 2009 decided to tackle Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, at a one off show in Katoomba. The show went down well enough that they submitted it for consideration for the 2010 Sydney Fringe Festival. It won “Best Musical Moment” at the Fringe Awards and has since gone on to be selected for Darwin Festival (2011), New Zealand International Arts Festival (2012) and Sydney Festival… which brings us just about up to date.
For those who aren’t aware of the album they’re recreating on stage, using no less than twenty two instruments between them, here’s a bit of a history lesson: Tubular Bells is an iconic instrumental album by Mike Oldfield, released back in 1973 on Richard Branson’s then actually virgin, Virgin Records (this was the first record released on the label). The record was a slow moving hit, spending hundreds of weeks on the UK charts, finally reaching number one over a year later, only to knock Oldfield himself off the number one spot. This was helped in part by the use of Tubular as the theme for the film The Exorcist.
Almost forty years – and millions of copies later – two ambitious musicians have managed to multi-task their way to recreating the layered album with style and precision on the stage, tubular bells and all.
Who has tubular bells just laying around, I mean really?
Jumping between instruments just about every 30 seconds, this is a performance which has no doubt developed with each live performance. Not every note has been replicated exactly – surely some things just aren’t possible with four hands – but from my own memories of the record, they get pretty damn close. They even use a kazoo!
Separated into two halves, with an intermission “so they can turn over the LP”, this has got to be an exhausting experience for the musicians on stage. The high level of technical skill involved is mind blowing – and you really do get sucked into it all as a result, waiting for something to go wrong, and enjoying it even more when everything goes right. It’s just rough enough around the edges so you know they’re putting their blood, sweat and tears into the production, and precise enough so they know their ambitious task is paying off.
The very notion of the project would no doubt excite Mike Oldfield himself. After all, when he put the album together at the age of 18, he did it himself. Even though looping technology had been around for a while by that point, it was still by no means common for the time – most artists would bring in session musicians to produce a layered record such as this. Daniel and Aidan have taken that ambitious spirit and, much like the album itself, have made it into an unexpected success.
For fans of the album, fans of music in general and anyone who wants to get caught in a 50 minute vortex, mesmerised by the technical skill of the musicians in front of them, this is definitely a show you don’t want to miss. Well done, boys. But seriously, give the rest of us a break!
Performances continue at Sydney University’s Seymour Centre until Sunday and then moves to Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres from January 18th until the 22nd.