The Lunatic Fringe (of Edinburgh)

When you’ve lived somewhere all your life (or at least for the vast majority of the portion of your life that you can actually remember, as in my case), you tend to take the things that are there for granted… even if they’re the very same things other people will travel thousands of miles to come and gawk at. Case in point: when Edinburgh goes crazy with the largest arts festival in the world every August, I always used to spend more time getting irritated by all the tourists getting on buses and gazing around in wide-eyed astonishment, as if they needed not just the fares and destinations but the entire concepts of fiat currency and motorised transport explained to them while I just wanted to get home from work before midnight, than I did actually going to shows. But this year will be different, thanks mainly to living with a certified Fringe addict.

We’ve been to two shows already, which is quite good going considering there have been exactly two nights of August so far. Last night’s was a complete live performance of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells by two men. (For those of you that don’t know me, I am a massive Mike Oldfield fan. For those that do, my apologies, I’m afraid I’m going to bang on about Tubular Bells yet again).

This is my collection of Mike Oldfield CDs. Please don’t be alarmed, I am seeking professional help.

I didn’t know what to expect at all. It always feels a bit dangerous going to see a new interpretation of something that’s so close to my heart (in this case the album that first made me realise how amazing music could be), but this time I wasn’t disappointed!

For a start, it was very faithful to the original version, more than I would have thought possible with only two musicians and no pre-recorded backings, and probably even more so than some of Mike Oldfield’s performances of it. They also had a pretty impressive range of different instruments; although there were synths and samplers, they didn’t rely on them too heavily. I counted six guitars, a mandolin, one and a half drum kits, a glockenspiel, two kazoos and of course the eponymous long thin metallic hanging things in addition to the four assorted keyboards and the bewildering tangle of wiring underneath. The two guys both switched from one instrument to the next at an incredible speed, sometimes playing two at once while also adjusting things with their feet. I also didn’t see any sheet music or notes anywhere on the stage, so the whole thing must have been quite a memory test. But despite all this, one of them still found the time to down a half-glass of red wine during one of the quieter moments.

I’d definitely recommend it if you’re a Tubular Bells fan. Even if you’re not, it has to be one of the more entertaining ways to spend an hour of your August. Where else do you get to see one man going mental at a drumkit and a kazoo simultaneously while another hammers out piano chords and makes caveman noises into a microphone? 🙂