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Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells II & III Live (DVD) CD (album) cover


Mike Oldfield


Crossover Prog

3.93 | 48 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The tolling of the iron bell calls the faithful to their knees

Strangely perhaps, it took until 1999 for Mike Oldfield to release this his first DVD. To be fair, the "Tubular Bells 2" gig had been broadcast on TV, and had been out on VHS video for some time though.

This set captures two live performances of the second and third variants of "Tubular Bells". Each occupies one side of a reversible disc, neither including any extras or additional tracks.

Taking TB2 first, this was one of the rare occasions when the guardians of Edinburgh Castle in Scotland allowed a rock gig to take place on the esplanade in front of the Castle, where the annual military tattoo is held. This highly photogenic location is not fully exploited visually, as the gig takes place at night. Nevertheless, the effect is still one of high emotion, and Oldfield himself seems to be genuinely enjoying the event.

Musically, TB2 was a largely faithful re-interpretation of the original "Tubular bells", although the music is actually new throughout. The piece lends itself well to the live environment, the necessary changes to the multi-layered studio version being applied sympathetically. It seems clear that a fair amount of post production dubbing has been done, especially in terms of the vocals. I seem to recall too that the highlight of the set, the appearance of a pipe band for the "Tattoo" section, was also reported to be dubbed. This does not however have any adverse impact whatsoever.

There is a slight variation right at the end, where the country band section closes the studio album. Here, it is followed by a brief reprise of "The bell", making for a more suitable live conclusion.

John Gordon Sinclair ("Gregory's girl" - film, "We have a dream" - Scottish World Cup song) acts as Master of Ceremonies, providing introductions for the instruments. He also takes on the role of the Piltdown man later. His controlled anarchy is perfect, especially when he makes V signs at the audience just prior to his departure. Put simply, this was not just a gig, it was an event.

"Tubular bells 3" was recorded by Oldfield while living in Ibiza, and as such derives some of its influences from the dance music of that island. This leads to a glorious mixture of traditional "Bells" and something altogether more contemporary. The links with the original "Tubular Bells" album are still there, but they are much less overt this time around. This recording took place in the UK capital, London; the location being Horseguards Parade, where the annual trooping of the colour takes place. There is no royalty present (as far as we can see) but Oldfield's former mentor Richard Branson is obviously back on the Christmas card list.

The atrocious weather on the night is testimony to the risks inherent in an outdoor gig in the United Kingdom, even in summer. Nevertheless, the performance is superb, bringing out the full majesty of this criminally under-appreciated work. Recognising the climactic properties of the bells themselves, here they are kept in reserve until the final section of the suite "Far above the clouds". When they do arrive, their impact is nothing short of breathtaking. The final two sections are reprised as a mini-encore.

In summary, this is essential viewing, not just for Oldfield fans, but for anyone looking for a DVD which captures a couple of genuine events. The music here is wonderful and the settings are awesome.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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