It is not often one is privileged to watch a living legend, so you might imagine there was a squeal of excitement when I received the opportunity to go and watch Santana perform live at London’s O2 Arena. Best of all, it would be just Santana, with the tickets espousing no filler warm up band. Just two hours with one of the greatest guitarists on Earth.
The first thing that struck me was that Carlos Santana spoke, something which had never crossed my mind. I had never before heard him talk, let alone knew he could speak English. But when he did, it was through a series of amusingly preposterous announcements which might earn one a trip to the loony bin. The first was his dedication of the concert to the ”archangel”Michael Jackson. Alrighty then. He then rather quaintly enlightened us all on the secret of ”female” happiness. ”When you’re not happy you’re not buying anything” he duly informed us all with a chortle. Darn tootin’.
If that wasn’t enough, we were then treated to his full-blown philosophy that ”each of us was significant” and that he wanted the nonplussed crowd to ”Look in the mirror and say: ‘I am light and I am love’”. For an audience that had paid £60 a ticket, I’m pretty sure Carlos Santana’s message of hippy spirituality was lost on the hordes of soulless consumers. Such wisdom would have probably best been suited to Woodstock rather than the state-of-the-art O2 Arena.
For all his well-meaning ramblings, the music did not suffer. Santana has an amazing catalogue of songs from over the last forty-years to choose from. In no chronological order, he belted out tunes from across the eras. Notably, ‘Europa (Earth’s Cry heaven’s Smile)’, through to his more commercial successes of the nineties from his career reigniting ‘Supernatural’ album and up to present day, showcasing Cream’s ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ and Led Zep’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ from his latest covers album, ‘Guitar Heaven’. Unfortunately he missed a trick by not playing ‘Samba Pa Ti’, but I was ecstatic to hear ‘Smooth’, despite the absence of Rob Thomas on vocals.
Santana was for the most part a very entertaining experience. It really is quite something to listen to this man play. Like when I saw Eric Clapton at the O2, some of the guitar riffs and solos leave you awe-inspired and dumbfounded. The same however cannot be said for the cameo solo made by his fiancée, Cindy Blackman; a drummer who Carlos proposed to on stage earlier this year. While it started off pretty good, it went on for far too long to the point that it became boringly self-indulgent.
Nonetheless, it was a thoroughly enjoyable gig and one can now say that at least I got to see a guitar legend before they are no longer around.
- Alec Folwell