SANTANA supported by Blue King Brown @ ACER Arena 28/2/2008
One of the strangest experiences of my life was sitting in the ACER while all around me lawyers and big-businessmen watched Blue King Brown and their brand of post-Inconvenient Truth roots music in this gigantic, soulless cavern. Stranger still was that they all seemed to be enjoying it
Quite a lot.
And, although I think BKB are more concerned with appearing socially aware than anything else, I must admit they put in a good show.
Including audience participation.
Quite generous audience participation.
Which, again, was weird.
Although, really, if you can’t get your message across in a 45-minute set, I don’t think you deserve a 5 minute monologue at the end of it to make it obvious what you’re all about.
But as I saw countless Santana t-shirts with “love”, “peace” and “freedom” writ large, and watched an intro video in which these words were flashed on the big screens superimposed on an image of a flying dove, it all made sense – I had somehow gotten mixed up with a slew of middle-aged ex-hippies who hadn’t been able to take time out of their Commerce/Law degree to actually go to Sunbury in the first place.
Never was this more apparent that during Carlos Santana’s sickening monologues, like when he brought Natalie Pa’apa’a from BKB out on stage and began to exalt the “sister side of us all”, concluding with the stunning revelation that, without women, none of us would be here.
Now kids, I want you to say hell to Mr Carlos Santana, your new Year 3 Science teacher.
But no science teacher in the world can play guitar like that.
It was absolutely gorgeous.
I’ve seen Tom Morrello, John Frusciante, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, The Edge and Eric Clapton in the last couple of years, but Santana matched it with all of them.
His playing soared, swayed, soothed and screamed, and left no one in any doubt as to his mastery of his chosen weapon.
But what I couldn’t stop thinking was that Santana was in desperate need of a frontman – his own Jagger, Iggy, Bono or Zack de la Rocha . For while Santana played beautifully, he was just chilling out in a dirty red beanie, an old t-shirt and some track pants, while two guys who sounded like rejects from Boys II Men sang all the songs. I couldn’t wait for them to shut the hell up so I could get back to enjoying my evening.
Don’t get me wrong, the band was brilliant. The drumming, courtesy of ex-Parliament/Funkadelic Dennis Chambers, was the best live drumming I’ve ever heard. He unleashed a solo that began well, seemed to peter out, and then exploded in this cavalcade of rolling, clashing drums and cymbals that had everyone in the audience rise as one in a standing ovation. What’s more, the two bongo players, brass section, Hammond organ, bass and second guitar filled the air better than I had ever imagined.
What it missed, though, was a focal point – someone to command the audience’s attention so that Santana could just chill out.
The man has all the natural stage presence of a mollusc, which is a great shame when the music is as good as anything going around.