1996 - VOYAGER
At the time of Voyager Dark Star wrote, "Mike is keen to premiere the new album with some concerts, possibly in London, but as we know, nothing is definite…" David Porter suggested a Royal Albert Hall series of concerts in mid to late June but then unconfirmed. Voyager could have been arranged to suit smaller more intimate venues and occasions perhaps, such as those mentioned by Mike in the aftermath of Tubular Bells 2 at Edinburgh. There was talk of a free concert in Ibiza but the local council did not come up with the right feedback. Dark Star also reported there were problems finding a sponsor.
It was reported in Dark Star that Spanish Radio station Cadena 100 'sponsored Mike's last tour'. They interviewed him in August 1996 and he said, "I would love to play [Voyager] live. We'll judge the reaction of the record when it comes out, if there's a big interest then we'll be back and do some concerts in Spain, I'd love to. We're trying to organise doing one here in Ibiza but the problem is that there are no facilities here, no equipment and no lights and we have to bring it all from either Spain or England and it will be very expensive, so we're waiting for a sponsor. If any interested sponsor wants to help pay for it we can maybe do it."
The 'Voyager tour' was even announced on a Portuguese TV programme. But it never happened, and it the familiar themes of money, sponsorship, and logistics materialised in its place.
1998 TUBULAR BELLS III PREMIERE FRIDAY 4 SEPTEMBER AT 8PM, HORSE GUARDS PARADE, LONDON.
Robin Smith (keyboards) Adrian Thomas (keyboards, programming), Hugh Burns (guitar) Carrie Melbourne (bass and Chapman stick) Katherine Rockhill (piano) Ian Thomas (drums) Jody Linscott (percussion) Alasdair Malloy (percussion) Pepsi Demacque, Amar and Rosa Cedron (vocals).
"I enjoyed seeing Richard Branson soaked to the skin." "The audience last night were as good as I've ever had. They were wonderful." Mike's words after the concert in Horse Guards Parade.
He told Dark Star's Paul Harris, "That was quite something you know. We had been working at it for at least 2 months before the show. To do all that work for 90 minutes was extraordinary."
"As it turned out it was a tremendous success. I have letters from people saying it was the best thing that they have ever seen, and I really didn't expect that.. When I was on stage all I was conscious of was that it started raining, then it rained and it rained until it was literally pouring down. I could just see a sea of people under plastic macs and puddles of water. When the music finally finished the applause was just so beautiful. They were a wonderful audience, and it justified all the work and effort that had been put into it because the people loved it.
"There will be some more concerts. Everything has been prepared now. We have all the right machines, the right boxes with all the right samples, we have got the musicians who've rehearsed. So we can plug the whole show in and do it wherever we want. Its just a question of finances. Horse Guards Parade was very expensive, it was an investment, it cost a lot of money. If we can get big venues at the early part of next year we will certainly be doing some more concerts.
"Playing live for me really makes it all worthwhile, because quite often in the studio I am sitting in an antiseptic environment. Time and time again I am blown away by the reaction you know, I expect to finish the last note and there be a smattering of applause. But normally a standing ovation is the order of the day and they love it. I adore playing live concerts." This positive response was clearly Mike's aftermath reaction to this particular event. The truth is clearly that he has mixed feelings, getting jaded from playing too many venues and gigs after the initial enthusiasm has worn off. But the thrill still awakens a need for him to perform, which is encouraging for his fans.
Asked where he'd like to perform concerts Mike said. "Places like Horse Guards Parade and Red Square. We have some wonderful offers from Poland and Turkey. I've never explored the Eastern block and I would like to. I have been very successful there. I quite envy Jean-Michel Jarre in this respect with his spectacular things. If I could do my own version of this it would be perfect."
Mike has often mentioned Jean-Michel Jarre, but not generally favourably. This rare doff of the cap seems to acknowledge his spectacular approach, a fact that may have influenced Mike's Millennium appearance, and perhaps a less rigid view of the live experience given the successes of 1992 and 1998. He certainly relented on a laser show. The 1998 concert is available on video.
Text © Mark Slattery
Photos © Thomas Rosenthal