Tubular Bells for Two

With over twenty different instruments played by only two men, this performance of Mike Oldfield’s masterpiece Tubular Bells is an astounding, explosive, truly incredible feat. Daniel Holdsworth and Aidan Roberts, returning for their third Edinburgh Fringe, should be commended not just for their diverse musical talents, with both often playing two or three instruments at once, but for their sheer stamina, as this expansive almost hour-long composition is not for the faint hearted, changing from soft to edgy to sinister over the course of two parts, with recurring motifs tying these very different sections together.

The pair’s enthusiasm and sheer talent, often playing eyes closed and completely immersed in the music, made this unique performance a joy to watch.

The performance began with no preamble, as Holdsworth and Roberts let the eerie opening minor piano theme (made famous in The Exorcist in 1973) speak for itself. The transitions between the different sections of the piece felt seamless, with the musicians merely nodding to each other to signal the coming changes, which were accentuated by different lighting, with eerie sections in blue, angry ones in red and calm, folksy segments lit in green. The vibrant ensemble of instruments grew increasingly vigorous building towards the end of Part One, with Roberts introducing a number of them before his introduction “plus tubular bells!” saw Holdsworth in a spotlight playing them, taking the music to dramatic new heights towards the finale.

When Part One ended there was a brief break before Part Two, during which Roberts explained that the performance is “an exercise in not giving up”. Indeed, when some of the transitions were less than perfect – whether that be Holdsworth swapping one guitar for another while managing to play a keyboard at the same time, or running across the stage to grab a different guitar from Roberts’ section – they added moments of comedy to a performance that made one laugh at their sheer daring in playing all parts of this piece, and their doing so with such enthusiasm and skill. Any mistakes that were made could only be expected, and easily excused, when both men played up to eight instruments each, and were playing the entire album from memory, and indeed most of the time these were barely noticeable. When they were, they only served to show just how momentous and immense a task Holdsworth and Roberts have undertaken, to bring such a complex and beautiful piece of music to life in this way.

The pair’s enthusiasm and sheer talent, often playing eyes closed and completely immersed in the music, made this unique performance a joy to watch; a mesmerising, quirky and incredibly ambitious musical journey featuring everything from a kazoo duet to quiet, mournful guitars, with some shouting and gobbledegook somewhere in between. After the final note was played several members of the audience, myself included, were on their feet during the applause – a testament to the talent, the power and the sheer infectious fun of Tubular Bells for Two.

Reviews by Catriona Scott

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The Blurb

One album, two men, too many instruments. The multi-award winning hit show returns! A tense and thrilling ride; two crazy Aussies perform Mike Oldfield's masterpiece, Tubular Bells, with a twist. They’re run off their feet as they tackle over 20 instruments to accomplish a feat that usually requires an entire entourage of musicians. Be taken on an epic journey, from the eerie theme from The Exorcist, to the raucous sound of 'The Caveman'. This physically demanding performance has mesmerised sell-out audiences worldwide. Not to be missed! ‘Musical equivalent of the triathlon, with bells on’ ***** (Scotsman).

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