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May 5, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

Tubular Bells ‘for two’ (review)

Published 3/5/11 at

Twenty eight instruments, two performers. And no, that’s not a typo. Aidan Roberts and Daniel Holdsworth perform Tubular Bells ‘For Two’ live, a piece so intricate that performer Mike Oldfield could only claim it as a solo act by recording separate takes on each instrument and layering them on his classic 1973 album, Tubular Bells.

As such, it’s all suitably shambolic when performed by two people on stage. Roberts loses the top of a drumstick mid-beat but keeps going. Holdsworth drops a pick, shrugs, and winces later with a good-natured grin when a guitar cable momentarily screams in protest. Things fall and cables lace around legs, threatening to drag the entire performance to a shuddering halt. But Tubular Bells ‘For Two’is just so gosh-darn good it makes me wonder why top 40 artists aren’t milking this type of work for inspiration in mainstream music, instead of lip-synching and auto-tuning themselves beyond all creative originality.

A ground-breaking record in its day, Tubular Bells is a genre-blending modern symphony of sound, still as relevant to a younger crowd as it was when it was first released.

Tubular Bells is also, fortunately, the kind of work that requires particular skill in one major area; the guitar. It’s here that both Roberts and Holdsworth excel. You’re going to hear a lot of catchy, heart-thumpingly good guitar riffs that demonstrate Oldfield’s particular grasp of exactly what makes a strong modern sound.

In the normally staid Fairfax Studio of the Arts Centre, people can’t help but whoop and cheer like they’re at a rock concert, because the performance has the kind of laid-back, surreal experience of a larger arena show. At one point, Roberts has one hand on the piano, one on the organ and one foot on the kick-drum while Holdsworth ascends into riff-playing heaven. And while the pair could milk the piece for all the rock-star glory it offers a guitarist, they don’t. They just look like two long-time friends bringing a 1973 chart-topper to a new generation.

Tubular Bells ‘For Two’ is 52 minutes of unrelenting wonder, performed by two blokes just crazy enough to play it all for a live and very appreciative audience.


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