Santana Tour European Tour Blog - Part 1 (By Gary Rashid)
Much like the Boeing 747 that delivered Carlos and the band to Europe
for the current leg of the 2008 world tour, Santana is a large,
powerful and complex vehicle. Both are constructed to carry the
designated passengers to far distances via near stratospheric altitudes
(in the case of Santana, the audience will be in orbit for, usually, 2
to 3 hours!).
Using the air travel analogy, the first show of the United Kingdom,
Birmingham, was much like the process of checking all systems for go,
proceeding to the appropriate runway, putting the engines at full
throttle, then, proceeding to takeoff!
There's always a little turbulence while climbing to cruising altitude
before things begin to smooth out. Such was the case in Birmingham.
The venue in Birmingham, acoustically speaking, appeared to be slightly
less than optimal. Many of the band members mentioned that they had
experienced more than the usual amount of sonic anomalies.
Nevertheless, after an inspired set by UK artist, Beverly Knight, a
highly energized female pop/soul vocalist that also included
exceptional backup vocals and an equally impressive band, Santana
delivered an exhilarating performance which was, as usual,
enthusiastically received. An excellent beginning to what would become
a rousing finale in London.
For the sake of convenience, the group resided in Manchester for both
the Birmingham and Manchester performances. With landing gear retracted
and engines humming at full throttle, the next performance in
Manchester would find the band definitively at 'cruising altitude'.
Where the air travel analogy begins to fail is in the fact that most
airline passengers prefer as little excitement as necessary to arrive
at the final destination. Nothing could be more diametrically opposite
when considering the performance dynamics that comprise a Santana
concert. Such an example resides in the review of the Manchester
As Carlos would define it, he decided to throw the band some 'raw meat'
to stimulate the appetites of his fellow cohorts. The dish was consumed
with great frenzy.
Carlos and the band are now definitely at full throttle but there is no cruising with the music.
The Manchester show exhibited all of the incendiary excitement that
fans have come to expect. Before the end of the main set, Carlos
invited Beverly Knight, along with her backup singers onto the stage
for a three-song showcase that included the following titles as listed
in respective order of occurrence, "Make Somebody Happy", "Right On/Be
Free" and "Praise".
Beverly's effervescent presence on stage, with her luminous smile and
energetic body language, elicited yet another incredible level of
musical excitement. With a vocal range and depth that easily rivals
that of almost any contemporary female pop/soul singers that comes to
mind, she emoted the perfect counter-part to Carlos' soaring guitar.
This special guest appearance was guaranteed to enhance what was
already a phenomenal musical set. In particular, the second song "Right
On/Be Free" delivered an elongated, high energy, soulful, gospel-like
groove that brought the audience to their dancing feet.
As scheduling required, the band was hustled directly from the
Manchester stage to awaiting vans that would transport everyone to the
airport for a flight to London.
Upon arrival to the airport it was learned that the plane designated to
fly the band to London was still enroute from Scotland where it was
'hijacked' by Jon Bon Jovi who required a quick trip back to
Manchester. Needless to say, the band wasn't going to be getting any
extra sleep on this night (unless it was in the lounge of the air
After finally arriving in London, albeit, much later than anticipated,
the band catches a few hours of sleep before making their way to the
15.000 seat O2 arena, the very unique tent-like venue that was created
for the millennium celebrations.
Somehow, even considering the duress of the previous night's late
travel and little rest, the band took to the stage in London to conduct
another classic Santana performance that was 'off the hook'! In
addition to a return cameo by Beverly Knight and her backup singers,
performing the same songs as from the night before, legendary African
musician Idrissa Diop would also join the band afterwards. Idrissa's
vocalization, energy and spirit are a perfect match for the band. His
hi-energy & dynamic presence generates an incredible response from
the audience. Idrissa remained on stage with the band to complete two
of his original songs titled "Historia" and "Africa Antilles".
It was a great finale to a brief visit to the UK. Certainly, in the
near future, there will be more trans-Atlantic calls requesting another
round of the inspired music that Carlos and the band deliver everywhere
Time had now come for Carlos and the band to bless the Parisians with
the exhilarating beauty, grace and dynamism known to them as Santana.
This show was as much about the dynamics of an audience as it was about
the band's performance itself. While UK audiences seem to be an intent
listening audience, as well as a requisitely appreciative one, the
Parisians exhibited an exuberance that was obviously infectious to the
band. A beautiful give-and-take evolved between the band and the
enthusiastic audience, each feeding the other, until the very last note
Sheryl Crow opened the show with a classic performance, unfortunately,
due to the fact she was traveling with a young child, the audience was
deprived of seeing Sheryl mix it up with the band. These two entities
have at least one other opportunity to share the stage when they meet
again later in the year in Las Vegas. Idrissa Diop, who coincidentally
was in Paris at the time of this performance, once again graced the
stage with Santana. Repeating the same songs from the night before in
London, the Parisian audience was allowed to experience this beautiful,
high energy, artist exchange his plentiful talents with Carlos and the
After the exhilarating conclusion to the show in Paris, the last thing
Carlos was interested in was the day off in Paris that followed. Just
the same, almost everyone savored an opportunity to spend a day in the
rich landscape of, truly, one of the greatest and most beautiful cities
in the world. Sightseeing, museums and shopping was the order of the
With Carlos anxious to resume the momentum that the last four
performances generated, the entourage jumped on the plane for a two
hour journey to Bratislava, Slovakia where the band was scheduled to
play it's first outdoor venue of the tour, a large soccer stadium.
How could anyone have predicted the intense thunder, lightning and
deluge of rain that manifested almost instantaneously? As the band
waited patiently for any kind of break in the unforgiving weather
conditions, it was finally determined that this show would have to be
rescheduled for the safety of the audience and the band itself. After
the power supply generators became inundated with water it was even
more apparent there would be no reprieve. Fortunately, the Bratislava
audience will still enjoy the Santana experience when the band is
rescheduled to make up the date on the following Sunday.
For Carlos, having to cancel a show for his dedicated fans that came to
share the love, is one of the most distasteful decisions that must be
made. One could almost count on a single hand the number of shows
Carlos has approved canceling in his lengthy performing career.
Ultimately, in consideration for the safety of the audience as well as
the support crews, even Carlos must rarely yield to a higher authority.
Bratislava doesn't have to worry, when Carlos returns it will be with a generous vengeance! More to come!