I have to admit I had
low expectations for this gig. My love affair with Santana probably
ended after Caravanserai (1972) and was only occasionally stimulated by
subsequent releases. In truth, the first time I saw Santana live was
when Earth Wind and Fire supported them on tour in 1975. Carlos and his
crew were quite simply upstaged by funksters with a revolving drumkit.
Looking round the
arena-sized crowd tonight, it is fair to say that the audience splits
into those who grew up with Woodstock and Samba Pa Ti (not played
tonight) and those who discovered Santana with the 'Supernatural' album
In fact, after a
marvellous intro of 'Everybody's Everything' and a tremendous 'Gypsy
Queen' and 'Oye Como Va' this dichotomy was further emphasised as the
crowd lapped up a Latin interlude starting with 'Maria Maria'.
But, for me, it was
the rockier material that had real impact. The Latin interlude out of
the way, and also a nepotistic drum solo featuring Carlos' bride-to-be
Cindy Blackman (who only came on stage for that f---g drum solo), we at
last got down to some serious trawl of back catalogue.
The first Santana
album I bought back in 1972, Santana III, nurtured the boy Neal Schon
and those halcyon days were relived with Batuka dovetailing into 'No One
To Depend On'. Both demonstrated perfectly the insistent, infectious
rhythms topped with Santana's frenetic guitar interjections and the
wonderful Hammond, this time played by David K Mathews. Glorious.
But the stroke of
genius was the inclusion of a little-known jam-track - Marbles - that
appeared on the Live album (with Buddy Miles) released in 1972. This may
have been lost on those audience members reared on 'Smooth' but it was a
deft touch and simply magnificent.
Santana has just
released a covers album but we only got two tracks, a lively and
slightly faster-paced-than-the-original 'Whole Lotta Love' and 'Sunshine
Of Your Love'. Both came across well and were a brief diversion from the
back catalogue trawl.
Among the other
highlights tonight, 'She's Not There', the Zombies song that Santana
made his own, and a heavy-sounding 'Incident At Neshabur' with more of
that glorious Hammond.
There were of course
a few minor niggles. Apart from fiance's drum solo, we had further drum
overload as part of the inevitable 'Soul Sacrifice'. But Dennis Chambers'
solo was too protracted to make any real impact. And the tour was
advertised with 'special guests' but none were forthcoming, unless of course you include Cindy.
two-and-a-half hour show never really dragged, occasionally surprised, and
If there was ever a
musician to rock us out of recession it would be Carlos Santana:
essentially upbeat, positive, and - with winter looming - enough fire in
the mix to help with fuel bills.