Mike Oldfield’s massively popular 1973 album is impossible to perform live without an army of assisting musos (as Oldfield himself has proven several times), so having only two Aussie multi-instrumentalists doing the whole thing – Part/Side One and Two in their entirety – seems like it couldn’t work, but it does, and magnificently.
Taking their seats amid a collection of keyboards, drums, guitars and strings and more (some twenty instruments), Aidan Roberts and Daniel Holdsworth began Part One, from the opening used on the soundtrack to The Exorcist to the Prog-Rock-ish midsection to the climax originally spoken by Vivian Stanshall of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.
With some sequences boldly replicated with extra flourishes and others uncannily imitated, there was suspense (as you wondered how only two guys, sometimes scrabbling around on stage, could possibly manage the next bit over and over), humour (one made a big deal of sipping wine late on while the other sweated over a long solo section) and, remarkably, hardly a flubbed note.
Taking a well-earned breather between the two Parts, the guys offered some jokes about how they’d been performing the Bells for nine years, but still didn’t have it right (a debatable claim), and then they proceeded into Part 2 and made a meal of messing up the first few notes, but the audience was on their side and, later, broke into spontaneous applause about midway through after a truly amazing double-drum-kit, red-light-bathed freak-out. Then it was more Prog (not a dirty word) guitar and keyboarding before the final rather giggly sequence that always sounded like a raucously drunken sea-shanty/piss-up.
Hugely ambitious and daringly innovative, this was one of the early gems of the Fringe, and don’t worry if you missed it, as the guys will surely be back, and those Bells will toll once more.
Tubular Bells For Two was performed at the Dunstan Playhouse on Saturday, February 18