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.

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory