In 1971, a young Richard Branson borrowed £30,000 from his aunt for the establishment of a recording studio. It was there that he discovered eighteen-year-old Mike Oldfield; and what a glorious discovery that was. From this alliance came a game-changing record of epic proportions, Tubular Bells, and arguably the most remarkable conglomeration of instruments of all time. It was the first to be produced under Branson’s Virgin Records and one that would go on to sell more than 25 million copies.
Tubular Bells for Two, composed and performed by Aiden Roberts and Daniel Holdsworth, is a monumental piece that compiles over 27 instruments played consecutively- and often simultaneously- in one raw and breathtaking rendition of Oldfield’s 1973 recording. With the infusion of a diverse range of sounds, the boys create a multitude of effortlessly merged rhythms, tones, pitches, and harmonies that absolutely submerge the audience. From the moment they begin that chilling refrain, the audience is absolutely engrossed.
On stage the two men, clad in black but lacking shoes (apparently for the ease of toe-tinkering pedal control), slave over about 28 different instruments in what is quite frankly a stressful and frantic ordeal. The music is seamlessly synchronised.
The production began simply as an experiment as the musicians jammed Tubular Bells on guitars. Gradually keyboard seeped its way in, and soon it turned into a multi-instrumental and insanely hectic compilation of musical talent, incorporating everything from a Bass guitar and drums to a xylophone and flute.
Every strum and every stumble (literally) could be heard in this intimate venue, at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre. Perhaps this was a flaw in design, and perhaps their stage presence could have been a little more engaging. On the other hand, they single-handedly played an assortment of over 28 instruments and barely skipped a beat, so I’m not about to press judgement – not even Oldfield was that game!
Ultimately, neither audience nor artists had any delusions as to why they were there. The performance was clearly a nostalgic and sentimental once – a revival of youth and good music. But Roberts insists they do not perform with the intention of tribute, but rather to, “take people on a musical journey with an exciting and vibrant performance of an intricate piece of music that is as relevant today as it was in 1973.”
While it is safe to say the space was occupied predominantly by baby booming Oldfield fanatics- every single person in the room (young or old, acquainted or unacquainted with the original), was in awe of the sheer compositional talent of these men. It is a show that I could not recommend highly enough; it is possibly one of the greatest musical performances to tour Australia this year.
TUBULAR BELLS FOR TWO played the Illawarra Perforing Arts Centre on Friday 30th September.
Aiden Roberts and Daniel Holdsworth are next set to perform their concert next year in the national capital, at the Street Theatre, between the 10th and 12th March.
The boys have produced a Tubular Bells For Two DVD which is available through Birdland Records.
Check the groups’ official website on www.tubularbellsfortwo.com for regular updates.