Pop: It's raining on Mike's parade

THE BRITISH have a great propensity to enjoy themselves whatever the weather. Staging the world premiere of Tubular Bells 3 in in Horse Guards Parade in central London was asking too much of the gods and, sure enough, it bucketed down on the 7,000 spectators. Surely not what Mike Oldfield had hoped for to launch his new opus, which sees the progressive rock maestro go back once more to the sweeping grandeur and pomp of Tubular Bells (the second instalment was at Edinburgh Castle in 1992).

The record that launched the Virgin label 25 years and 18 million copies ago has gone from hippie-must-listen to coffee-table status, and its minimalist Erik Satie-like motifs still send a shiver down the spine of Exorcist aficionados, when they aren't cropping up on curious dance mixes.

Perhaps prompted by Rob Dickins, the head honcho of his label WEA, who engineered a makeover for Rod Stewart, Oldfield, the godfather of the ambient and new age movement, has upped sticks and gone to Ibiza to absorb some of the techno and hedonistic aspects of the club scene there. Rather than looking up Kevin Ayers, the quirky British singer-songwriter - now a Majorca resident - with whom he first secured gainful employment as a teenager, Mike has ended up following the trance-dance route his old cohort Steve Hillage started exploring at the beginning of the Nineties. A rave, Balearic Tubular Bells, then? Not quite, but there are some dance rhythms and loops behind the opening and closing sections of the new work, which followed a shortened reprise of the original.

Tinkle tinkle went the famous piano and xylophone phrase, and the event took on messianic proportions as blankets of rain fell in front of the stage. Fittingly enough, Tubular Bells 3's central song and forthcoming single is called "Man In The Rain", and the thunderous effects of the intro detracted from its obvious similarity to the 1983 hit "Moonlight Shadow".

Backed by a 10-piece ensemble, including three percussionists (such as the in-demand Jody Linscott) and three vocalists, the bleached-blond, tanned, healthy-looking Oldfield doodled away and bent the notes like a virtuoso, soothing the corporate audience. When the trademark bells came, bang on 10pm, they provided a giant emotional release for the soaked spectators. However, it wasn't quite up to the regal setting of central London. Mike, next time, please, hold the waterworks and make it Notre- Dame de Paris in July!

A version of this review appeared in some editions of Saturday's paper