ROCK / Ringing the changes - but not many: Mark Wareham on the pomp and circumstances of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells II at Edinburgh Castle

The bells, the bells . . . For 20 years they had lain silent. You might have thought, having been responsible for shifting 16 million albums in the Seventies, the tubular bell would have played a greater role in the subsequent history of rock. But not a ding. All these years on and Mike Oldfield, sole ambassador of the long-neglected tubular bell, has taken it upon himself to sound its pleasing peal once more.

Naturally, there were those of us in the 8,000-strong audience who had come to laugh. But Oldfield, master of perception, had sensed this and was prepared. For the support act, he had booked a pyjama-clad Canadian singer/songwriter of such intense dreariness (imagine a duller Suzanne Vega) and with such deeply earnest lyrics that the crowd lost its grip and guffawed loudly through long sections of her folkie songs. The Edinburgh sense of humour was clearly lost on the performer, whose only response was to ask, 'Why are you laughing?' Instead of slipping off anonymously, she made the mistake of telling us her name (Jane Siberry, though it came across as Jane Simpering). For Oldfield, however, it was a brilliant ploy. By the time Simpering had cleared the stage, the crowd was baying for the bells.

Against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, there was a tangible sense of occasion. The ageing crowd consisted mostly of Murrayfield Barbours and headscarves whose children were probably hippies in 1973. It was quite conceivable that they had not been to a rock concert since the Seventies, so the atmosphere of anticipation was understandable.

Oldfield and his band of 17 took the stage and immediately the familiar layered wash of piano and guitar from the original recording filled the air. Only it wasn't quite the original. Here and there, a keyboard player would stray off into uncharted waters, or Oldfield himself would venture into a new guitar sequence, but inevitably all departures led back to that same insistent riff. It was as if Oldfield had been frozen in time. Twenty years on, the marketing men had given him a shave, a shiny blue shirt and some spanking white shoes, cut a couple of inches from his hair and then woken him up and asked him to reproduce as much as he could remember of the original Tubular Bells. It soon became clear that he had remembered just about all of it.

For those playing spot-the-difference, the updates were remarkable. As another sleepy guitar break floated away, one of the heavenly chorus of female backing singers let out a spacy operatic wail borrowed from the Star Trek theme. John Gordon Sinclair introduced the instruments ('Two slightly sampled electric guitars'), camping up some Germanic caveman grunting before grabbing his jacket and sprinting off stage in (mock) embarrassment. And then the climax, some 25 pipers and drummers from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, marching on stage as if they were still in the Military Tattoo. For one Scot in the crowd it was all too much. 'I feel fair insulted,' he groaned.

For Oldfield, the night was always going to end in triumph. The ovation was standing, some 100 million TV viewers had seen him strike the bells and the CD was already on its way to the top of the charts. It's all too easy to say that Oldfield has a lot to answer for, what with giving the world its first concept album, becoming the inspiration for thousands of New Agers, and now giving rock music its first sequel. But we should also be grateful. How easy it would have been to rush-release Tubular Bells II just a couple of years after the original. By now, on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle, we could very well have been dancing to Tubular Bells VIII.

Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before