Tubular Bells Live! Mercury Theatre, Colchester

I NEVER thought I would hear the music of Mike Oldfield played live. But here it was, in Colchester, and it was utterly brilliant.

I first got into Mike Oldfield’s music in 1992 when he released Tubular Bells II. Notoriously shy and happily enjoying life in the Bahamas, Mike only makes brief, and expensive, forays into live music, usually playing venues such as Horse Guards Parade or The Brandenburg Gate. Basically, places I could never get to.

But this music should not remain unplayed and I am immensely grateful to composer Phil Toms that I was able to enjoy this wonderful evening.

Twelve talented musicians, known collectively as Tubular Bells Live! playing very well chosen pieces from the huge Oldfield back catalogue.

It started with the slow build of Hergest Ridge, then into a wonderful part four of Incantations. Live performance just opens up music so much, I had not realised how complex the time signature to Incantations was until I was asked to clap along.

As this wonderful show progressed I came to understand just how much Oldfield’s music is driven by the bass, played expertly by Mike McGibney. It also hit me how much woodwind there is in these songs, flute and piccolo played by Hannah Wainwright. You don’t pick up on these things from the recordings alone.

Jay Stapley, who played with Mike Oldfield at the famous Tubular Bells II Edinburgh Castle concert, also expertly contributed the trademark electric guitar sound all Oldfield fans love.

My other highlights were the Return to Ommadawn medley, an amazing performance considering this album was only released three months ago. Mike has said he is not going to tour it, and here was this ensemble performing it perfectly, a world premiere indeed. Tubular Bells Part 1 was also fantastic and just what I’d always dreamed of.

There is a huge demand for this music. The Australian Pink Floyd, another band who play the music of a group who don’t tour anymore, are massive. This band are just as good and could be just as big. It would be a travesty if this show did not tour.