Wembley Arena has a capacity of 12,500 seats, and it’s looking impressively full tonight for the London leg of this show by Santana, dubbed “The Sentient Tour”.
They kick things off with the driving guitar and percussion of “Toussaint L’Overture” from their 1971 Santana III album. It’s a great way to start the show and for the next two and a half hours we get the more uptempo Santana songs from their back catalogue which stretches back over 40 years.
The explosive band consists of drums, bass, rhythm guitar, keyboards, a timbale player, a conga player with 5 congas, trombone, trumpet and two vocalists taking it in turns to sing lead on various songs. The percussionists particularly stand out, an essential part of the Santana sound, they drive the rest of the band with incredible Latin tempos that fuel the Rock guitar solos that Carlos Santana revels in throughout the show.
Other stand out songs for me were “Black Magic Woman”, “She’s not there” and “Jingo” but the whole show was lively, entertaining and aimed at keeping people dancing. The gig happened the day before Carlos’ 66th birthday, so about half way through the show there’s a brief pause while the band and audience sing “Happy birthday” and his wife, ace drummer Cindy Blackman-Santana, comes on stage to bring him some flowers and a cake.
Carlos Santana doesn’t spend a great deal of time talking to the audience, and when he does it’s to mention the importance of the impending royal birth. Not something the majority of the crowd seem too interested in hearing about, but it’s the only low point in the show so swiftly forgotten about.
I read a review of this gig in NME, where they devoted more space to deriding the clothes the musicians were wearing rather than actually reviewing the music, calling Santana’s popularity “improbable megastardom”. Not that these sort of lazy reviews matter, but it reminds me why I prefer to actually go to gigs to experience things for myself.
The band encore with a rousing version of “Soul Sacrifice”, while footage of them performing this at Woodstock is shown on the huge screen behind them. A great end to an entertaining show. Santana have nailed the perfect blend of guitar virtuosity and compelling Latin percussion. They fall in and out of favour but are always worth seeing live.