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Various Artists

The Tubular Bells 50th Anniversary Tour Blu-Ray set

Review by Gary Hill

I reviewed a CD set with a similar cover and title in this issue of Music Street Journal. I assumed when I got that and this, that the CD set was an audio release of the same performance from this concert. That's not really true, though. While the main group involved with that recording was  The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (and I filed that one under that artist name), a different set of musicians were involved with this. Much of the music is the same, though.

So, since I've established that this and the other release are not really that closely related, let's delve into some of the particulars on this. This started with a vision to create a stage presentation of Tubular Bells to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its release. There were many obstacles to overcome, but we'll get to that when I talk about the second disc of this set.

This show was not your typical concert. It starts as more of a standard show, with some non-Tubular Bells music, including Oldfield's biggest hit  "Moonlight Shadow." Once it shifts to Tubular Bells, though, an acrobatic team joins on stage and performs throughout the performance from that point. It's almost what one might call an aerial ballet augmentation.

I have to admit, I'm not a fan of interpretive dance or ballet, so I'm probably not the target audience for that part of the show. I think at points that works pretty well. I also admire the performers' athleticism and skill-set. I just don't "get it" most of the time.

When it comes to the musical performance, though, I definitely am the target audience, and it works really well. This group of musicians is incredibly talented and really create some exceptional live music. In fact, I think I like their version of Tubular Bells better than the version on the CD set that shares cover art with this.

I really wish they had given more viewing options. I mean, the whole thing was obviously filmed with multiple cameras. It was filmed on multiple nights. It seems to me that they could have offered an option to watch the show focused entirely on the musicians, an option to watch it with the focus on the acrobats once they come out, and an option to watch it the way we see it now, with mixed perspectives. All that said, the video and audio quality is exceptional as is. I just wished I could see more of the musicians. To me they were the stars of the show.

Now, let's turn our attention to the second disc of this set. The main feature here is a documentary that shows us much of the lead up to this show via interviews, behind the scenes footage and more. I found the first part of this to be riveting and compelling.

That part shows the challenges of getting this show together. That includes doing it just after things opened post-Covid. The musicians hadn't performed live in months. Everyone involved had to quarantine for two-weeks before the show. The music itself was challenging, but the inclusion of the Cirque team made the stage production even more problematic. Then there was a massive roof leak on the building on the day of the opening night that nearly cancelled the show. The documentation of that with some interviews interspersed about the creation and importance of Tubular Bells was so good. That part ends just as they are hitting the stage.

Honestly, I think the documentary should have ended right then. From there we get footage from the performance, and we have already seen that on the first disc. Maybe they included that since it was a standalone documentary, but perhaps when this set was put together they should have considered leaving that part out.

There are some other bonuses on the set. The star of those, as far as I'm concerned, is an insightful and informative archival interview with Mike Oldfield (who it should be noted was consulted about the performance, but was not otherwise involved with it) and Richard Branson. Still, the main features are the real stars here, and they both work really well, but have some things I would have changed.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 6. More information and purchase links can be found at:

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