Live review

Crystal Palace, London : 9.6.2002

Carlos Santana has always had an aura of the spiritual about him. Prone to outbursts of impassioned tree-hugging nonsense about how we should all love one another and live as one big happy family, the man has clearly done too much mescaline. But on Sunday I had my faith in cynicism undermined by a simple change in the weather. Allow me to explain . . .

This gig was billed as Santana plus very special guests. Great, I thought, maybe he's called in some top rock act to get us going, some real crowd pleaser. Ah, no. What we got were pitiful boyband Blue, and UB40, who obviously still haven't managed to find proper jobs yet. Unusual choice for supports, but maybe they will prove to be top live acts. Ah, that would be another no then. Both failed miserably to divert my attention away from my Sainsbury's mixed salad (that's what happens when you get old kids, be warned).
    Adding to the underwhelming effect of these spurious pop wasters, filling the stadium with their tedious arrangement of frequencies, was the persistent rain. It's bloody June - it should be hot and sunny, not pissing with rain. I thought global warming was going to stop all this nonsense. Oh well, I suppose I'll have to break open a few more fridges and let off some more CFC-laden aerosols. I digress.
    So there we are, Blue are jigging about the stage like a bunch of epileptic children, desperately and laughably trying to appease an unimpressed audience with references to the England World Cup victory over Argentina. It rains hard. UB40 come on, do their amusing pastiche of reggae, culminating in the dreadful Red Red Wine. It rains hard some more. They leave.
    I go and rack up some hot chocolates in a desperate attempt to keep warm (this happens too kids) and then the sun comes out. Totally unexpected. Totally welcome. Santana hit the stage and the mood changes from one of mild indifference to one of great expectation. And Mr Santana and his chums deliver the goods . . .

After many years in the rock wilderness, the album Supernatural has seen the man go from ageing latin twanger who lost the plot years ago, to re-invented guitar-god. This, being the Supernatural tour, was his chance to do god-like things in front of me and a few thousand other afficionados and reclaim his rightful position.
    The man is well into his fifties, wears a hat to conceal the bald patch, and has a face lined by 'experience'. But long after most of his contemporaries have let the arthritis, tinitus and drug-induced amnesia steal their creativity and ability, Santana has produced an album that is the dog's bollocks. He takes it out on the road and proceeds to whip the crowd into a right old latin frenzy with his consumate skill, passion and imagination. Good work fella.

Tunes such as, erm . . . well, the one that goes er . . . okay so most of the stuff played was new to me, being better acquainted with the early 70s material. Strangely the absence of most of his back catalogue was not a problem with so much good new stuff to work out on. We got Oye Como Va and Black Magic Woman towards the end of a full two and a half hour set, but we also got loads of hypnotic latin jazz rock workouts, gorgeous melodic guitar tunes, a passionate flamenco piece, a blinding bass solo (yes that's right, a bass solo that works!), old percussion buddies Raul Rekow and Karl Perazza feeding off an up for it crowd, and the old man himself playing like, well a young Carlos Santana. Oh and a drum solo. Ahem. I loved it. The crowd loved it and we all sang Happy Birthday to Raul as they wheeled on a cake fizzing, in the evening sunshine, with quite a few candles.

So having drifted away from my opening sentiment, allow me to drift back again. We were treated to a Santana monologue about how we should all hold hands and blah blah blah . . . when it occurred to me that the day started with foul weather, it carried on with foul weather and looked like it would end up with foul weather. But as soon as Carlos et al were due to take the stage, the sun came out. And the weird thing is, he actually said, in his monologue, that our unified desire for sunshine cleared the clouds - positive thought that, later after we had enjoyed the show, we could use to heal the world. He also mentioned something about angels flying around the stadium.

:: Tom Alford

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