First Night: Mike Oldfield: The bells ring up a pounds 50 reunion

AT AROUND 9.30pm last night, as patterned lights played over the entire audience, Mike Oldfield ran round the stage of the Royal Albert Hall, whacked a tubular bell with a mallet, and grown men wept.

This was to be the great hippie reunion; and as is the nature of hippie reunions, it didn't come cheap. pounds 50 seats are more than twice the norm for pop concerts. But then Oldfield performing all this week for the first time in England in more than 10 years cannot be classed as a mere pop concert. Mystical experience, hallucinogen, answer to an insomniac's prayer, his creation, Tubular Bells, has been all those things.

While the massive hanging of the Tubular Bells symbol draped over the Albert Memorial instantly brought back memories of late- night sessions in campus bedrooms, the audience did not: surburban family groups in chain- store woollies. Perhaps ex-hippies had balked at the price.

Oldfield, it was, who made Richard Branson a millionaire, something that everyone appears to have forgiven except Oldfield. Tubular Bells by the 19-year-old prodigy was Virgin's first release in 1973, and the minimalist, haunting guitars and synthesiser-led symphony sold 16 million copies. Oldfield and Branson fell out of love and into litigation; traumatic experiences for a hippie, which might explain why the gestation period for Tubular Bells 2 was nearly 20 years.

The post-psychedelic era of the first Tubular Bells is long gone, though not it seems for the celebrated 'master of ceremonies' who announced the 'two slightly distorted guitars' and other instruments on the album. Vivian Stanshall, late of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, was intended also to be the voice on Tubular Bells 2, but when the producer went to collect him, he was asleep in the bath with a pot plant.

Oldfield, though, having discovered contentment through exegesis, a therapy in which you re-enact the birth trauma, looked fit last night. In white trainers, dark T- shirt and suit he bounced about through a jungle of instruments, with kilted bagpipers and juggler joining him on stage. He played all of the melodically more consistent No 2, but received an emotional ovation for a short burst of the dramatic and powerful original, a piece of social history with resonances that no follow-up could claim.

'It simply reminded me of a happier and freer time,' said Carole Russell, a marketing manager. 'In 1973, I was at college and there didn't seem to be a day when you didn't hear and feel this music.'

Among the younger fans, Peter Evans, a 26-year-old engineer, said: 'It just creates so many different visual planes. It was like meeting an old friend after 20 years - even though I was only six then.'

Chris Dewey, a student at Bath University, added: 'The climaxes are so intense. It sends a rush right through my body. Towards the end of 'Altered State' (from Tubular Bells 2) I experienced this intense tingling sensation.'

Today, they will attend a Mike Oldfield convention, organised by his fanzine Dark Star at a London hotel, before regrouping for more intensity in the nervous system.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
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