Review & photos by Mark Lloyd
It was a muggy July evening in Birmingham yet the eager LG Arena crowd seemed cool and calm as they awaited the arrival of Latino guitar virtuoso Carlos Santana. First to take to the stage were Santana’s 9 piece band, followed by the always impeccably dressed man himself, sporting his distinctive white outfit and that instantly recognisable white Panama hat.
Santana visually counted in the band as they launch into “Touissant L’Overture”, the first of what was to be fifteen tracks over a 2 hour spectacular show. Much to the excitement of the crowd there were firm favourites and timeless classics from the outset; “Black Magic Woman”, “Gypsy Queen” and “Oye Como Va”. There was no waiting for the encore to hear your favourite Santana track, no sir not tonight.
This was going to be much more than just a gig though, with lights a plenty and an enormous video screen at the back of the stage that showed close up live footage of the musicians. It was a great experience for all aspiring guitarists to witness the dexterity and fret work of the guitar legend played in real time on the huge screen.
Despite Santana just turning 66, it’s very apparent that time has not diminished his musicianship. Shaking his leg to the beat with his head tilted back, he proved he was the Latino guitar master on “Incident at Neshabur” and “Corazon Espinado”.
As the brass section began the opening bars of “Foo Foo”, which literally translates as “Crazy” in French the audience were encouraged to take to their feet by the band, which they did emphatically. By now even the security at the LG to some degree had given up trying to dampen down the Latino spirit that was engulfing the audience by asking them to sit down.
Whilst Santana may be a man of very few words on stage his singular talent on the guitar is without question. Combine that along with a solid percussion section and the shared vocals of Tony Lindsay and Andy Vargas and what you end up with is a smorgasbord of sounds that all complement themselves beautifully.
The extensive encore included some big numbers which included “Jingo”, “Samba Pa Ti” and a quite brilliant version of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”. There was an extended instrumental version of “Soul Sacrifice”, and the evening was bought to a crescendo of cheering as Santana launched into “Smooth”. What an amazing way to finish.
It’s easy to see why this is an award winning group. They perform such a medley of songs in both Spanish and English, that reflects the passion and soul which transcends music genres and generational, cultural and geographical boundaries. Well worth waiting three years for!
See more of Mark’s photos here;