Tubular Bells 50th Anniversary Tour (2022) Review
Like any other horror fan, I knew of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, or at least the first couple of minutes of it, as the theme from The Exorcist. It wouldn’t be until I was in college and my then girlfriend had a copy of it that I heard the full album. It was as much of a revelation to me as it was to the music industry in 1973 when it was first released.
An incredible work of studio engineering, remember this was before the age of digital recording, the various instruments, all played by the 19-year-old Oldfield, had to be overdubbed using analog tapes. It was an eclectic mixture of musical styles with nothing that even remotely resembled lyrics that could be used as a single. Despite that, Richard Branson used it to launch Virgin Records, those first few minutes found their way into Friedkin’s film and the rest is history.
For the Tubular Bells 50th Anniversary Tour, Robin Smith created an arraignment that could be performed by a combination of orchestral and rock performers. He conducts it as well and it was complemented by a performance of Circa Contemporary Circus, an acrobatic circus company along the lines of Cirque du Soleil and choreographed by Yaron Lifschitz. The performance was recorded over three days at London’s Royal Festival Hall by director Matt Hargreaves.
“It’s amazing to think that it’s 50 years since I started writing Tubular Bells, and I am touched that my music has reached so many people, all over the world, during that time. I am sure that the 50th Anniversary Live Concert Experience of Tubular Bells will be spectacular, theatrical, fantastical and thrilling, marking 50 years from when I started writing the music”Mike Oldfield
The concert opens with a trio of short pieces, ‘The Gem’ by Robin Smith and ‘Summit Day’, from the album Guitars and composed by Oldfield and arranged by Smith. The trio is rounded out by Oldfields hit single “Moonlight Shadow” which is also my favourite of his songs although over the years I’ve come to favour Nolwenn Leroy’s version.
Once the performers begin playing Tubular Bells and the acrobats take the stage Tubular Bells 50th Anniversary Tour becomes an entertaining mix of music and visuals with the acrobats’ performance complimenting the music but never taking the spotlight from it. The arrangement itself is close enough to the original that it doesn’t sound overly different, apart from replacing the late Vivian Stanshall as Master of Ceremonies.
Threw is also a documentary narrated by Bill Nighy (Wrath of the Titans, Castlevania) that touches on the recording of Tubular Bells itself and then goes behind the scenes to give a look at how the performance was originally conceived as a ballet and developed from that into what eventually was staged. It’s an interesting, if not particularly in-depth piece. The most dramatic it gets is the torrential rain and flooding of the Royal Festival Hall that nearly cancelled the performance.
As a bonus, the Blu-ray and DVD versions of Tubular Bells 50th Anniversary Tour also contain “Turning Back the Clock” which features Branson and Oldfield talking about the making of the album. Disappointingly it’s only six minutes long but the stories that they relate are interesting.
The performance alone makes Tubular Bells 50th Anniversary Tour worth getting for fans. The documentary makes a nice bonus for those who like to take a look behind the scenes at these kinds of productions.
Tubular Bells 50th Anniversary Tour is currently available on Blu-ray and as a two DVD set from Cleopatra Records. It comes to VOD and Digital platforms on December 13th. If you live in the UK you can find the schedule for the tour here.