Review and photos by Peter Coates
Santana have made it over to Australia for Bluesfest, and have arranged an arena tour around their weekend headline show at the festival – and brought The Doobie Brothers along to open the night with a generally familiar set of songs – not all of the greatest hits, but a decent selection of them.
Looking lively and sounding fantastic, they ran through Takin' It To The Streets, The Doctor, a version of Long Train Runnin' with half a dozen false endings, and a superb version of Black Water. We also got the spectacular 4-part vocal harmonies on What A Fool Believes, and the unmistakable riff of China Grove, before a brief stage exit, and return for an encore of Listen to the Music which got the audience off their seats and onto their feet.
A pretty quick turnaround onstage, and some intro chanting from Woodstock, to a backdrop of period photos from the festival, brought the 9-piece band onto the stage, followed by the unmistakable figure of Carlos Santana, and the band rolled straight into the epic Soul Sacrifice to open the set – one of the heaviest riffs from the back-catalogue, and the frenetic activity from the band set the scene for the rest of the night.
It can be hard to know where to look onstage – the man himself leading the band as conductor, arranger, and guitar-wizard extraordinary, with Benny Rietveld holding it all together on bass, while Cindy Blackman Santana powers away behind the kit, with Paoli Mejias and Karl Perazzo doing the percussion honours on congas and timbales (and the rest) respectively. David Matthews lords it over stage left on the keyboards, with Tommy Anthony providing the rhythm guitars. Not one but two vocalists (also adding various instruments to the mix) in Andy Vargas and Ray Greene complete the band.
We were treated to a mixture of classic tracks and newer material, but in most cases the feeling of ‘Carnivale’ and great joy in the music is maintained whether through Are You Ready People, Maria Maria, Corazon Espinado and Jingo. Well known for extended interpretations of other people’s songs, as well as his own material, Santana brings us an extended jam of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, a tribal feel for Deon Jackson's Love Makes The World Go Round, a re-working of Enya’s Orninoco Flow, and the insistent salsa funk of Tito Puente's Oye Como Va.
The man himself is a joy to behold – full of positive energy, and with a twinkle in his eye as he orchestrates the rest of the band – it must be so hard for the rest of them to work out what is about to happen next! We get a couple of messages of Love, peace and happiness, but for the most part we just get blistering guitar-work, backed by extraordinary musicianship all round.
Classic hits of Evil Ways, She’s Not There and Black Magic Woman delight the crowd who get more and more into the show as it goes on, before Gypsy Queen closes the set proper. The encore is inevitable, and we get 25 minutes more, opening with Sentient, before a technically sharp drum solo from Carlos’ wife Cindy Blackman, and a version of the classic hit Smooth, featuring a couple of verse / chorus of the Police hit Roxanne, with the immense voice of Tommy Anthony surprising everyone. The evening closes with Peace & Happiness which was appropriate given the vibe in the packed Qudos Bank Arena.
SANTANA / THE DOOBIE BROTHERS
Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney
April 13 th 2017