Gig review: SANTANA – LG Arena, Birmingham, 17 July 2013

Santana - LG Arena, Birmingham, 17 July 2013

There can be fewer pleasing combinations than the music of Santana on the hottest day of the year during an unexpected heatwave. With the rhythm section pumped up to the max, the always spiritual Carlos Santana would have us believe that Sex is the new God. With songs like ‘Maria Maria’ and ‘Smooth’ – and a pulsating, primal ‘Jingo’ – he is certainly doing his best to help us in our path.

But the festival nature of much of the music tonight further revealed the dichotomy in the band’s audience. I am sure that certain Santana die-hards who, having grown up with the music on the back of Woodstock, would not now touch the band with a barge pole. It’s gone too commercial and it’s been like that for a decade or more.

Ironically, the band’s current album ‘Shape Shifter’ is a definite return to form, echoing the band’s early-seventies heyday and with more emphasis on the instrumental. But the die-hards would have predicted: it’s nowhere to be heard tonight. Indeed, Santana’s previous album Guitar Heaven was only alluded to in the finale with ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’.

Santana - LG Arena, Birmingham, 17 July 2013

The early part of the set was punctuated by ‘Incident At Neshabur’ and ‘Oye Como Va’. I am sure that for the minority here who called up ‘The Apprentice’ final on their phones during the “Latin pop” interlude – replete with laboured band introductions – there were many more who revelled in the flamboyance of it all.

Throughout, the band – highlighted by the two horn players Bill Ortiz and Jeff Cressman and David Mathews on keys, together with the irrepressible Raul Rekow on percussion – were magnificent. Carlos of course reminded us of why we’d been entranced by his melodic guitar invention from earliest times. His between song banter about doing better for ourselves is always heartfelt and slightly endearing if occasionally a little wacky.

Santana - LG Arena, Birmingham,17 July 2013
Photo: David Randall

But the gig – and the band’s current audience – was perhaps summed up as a little twerp of all but thirteen summers leant over and asked me to refrain from jigging in my seat because his mother had a back problem.

At that moment, Carlos’ good cheer was all but forgotten as I jigged mercilously to ‘Hope You’re Feeling Better”, a welcome respite from a sadly increasingly predictable set list.

Review by David Randall
Photos and Gallery by Steve Goudie (except where indicated)

Setlist: 1. Toussaint L’Overture 2. Black Magic Woman/ Gypsy Queen 3. Oye Como Va 4. Incident at Neshabur  5. Corazón Espinado  6. Maria Maria  7. Foo Foo 8. Evil Ways 9.  Jingo 10. Samba Pa Ti 11. Hope You’re Feeling Better 12. A Love Supreme 13. Smooth/Dame Tu Amor 14. Sunshine Of Your Love  Encore: 15. Woodstock Chant/Soul Sacrifice 16. Saideira

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.


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