"Santana made every single punter feel like an integral part of that family."
Nostalgia and anticipation collided as a medley of classics rolled out over the PA through darkness like they were blasting out of an old radio.
A tight spotlight pierced the atmosphere to reveal The Doobie Brothers drummer Ed Toth, welcoming the night with the beat of Jesus Is Just Alright.
Four-part harmonies immediately transformed the hit into a religious experience with original member Patrick Simmons taking an early lead with an epic solo backed by Bill Payne’s erratic, rockin’ organ.
Fellow founding guitarist/vocalist Tom Johnston took control as the band went Rockin' Down The Highway, but it wasn't long before the others had their moment in the sun, bassist John Cowan unleashing soaring vocals while sax player Marc Russo dished up rousing melodies during Take Me In Your Arms. A journey through rock, R&B, psychedelia and more culminated in fitting encore tune Listen To The Music.
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American Latin rock god Carlos Santana casually stood side of stage as his band created an entrance of theatrical intensity through a percussive onslaught. The man of the hour strolled into a wave of applause while vocalists Tony Lindsay and Andy Vargas’ infectious charm kicked in. Love Makes The World Go Round was an early indication of what vibe to expect from the show, as Santana found a perfect balance between showcasing his insane skills and letting his band take lead. The band was tight and bounced through numerous stop-start fills with ease while Santana filled the gaps with bursts of magic.
Although someone like Santana could quite easily let his guitar work do all the talking, he frequently made a connection with the audience between songs, recalling the first time he ever touched down in Perth back in 1973 on his birthday – the same day Bruce Lee passed away. "Here we are a couple of years later in Perth,” he joked. "We want to elevate, uplift the energy to a place above fear and illusion.”
A yellow spotlight illuminated the nosebleed section to reveal two punters dancing like there was no tomorrow to Maria Maria. Santana did his own mind-boggling dance and switched between two guitars throughout the song, adding a rich Spanish edge.
An epic salsa medley was cut short: "What the heck,” he said. “How come you're all sitting down?" The setlist tightened as songs flowed effortlessly into one another; a change of pace that had everyone dancing to the soaring choruses of Enya’s Orinoco Flow (Sail Away), Evil Way and The Doors Light My Fire.
Taking punters on a trip through numerous cultures, Santana and his nine-piece band created a unique atmosphere in the arena that felt intimate and special. It was likely to do with the fact that the members on the massive stage were so close together they were practically rubbing shoulders the entire night, and Santana made every single punter feel like an integral part of that family. If only he could bring his new extended family to Bluesfest.