Viva, Carlos Santana!

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The ingredients were all there: A perfect autumn evening in Cape Town, a few thousand enthusiastic fans and mix in a vibey crowd, and a pleasing warm up from SA’s favourite live band, Mango Groove. All that was needed to complete the perfect recipe was the special ingredient, Santana.

Then magic happened!

Cape Town and the rest of the country have been waiting for this occasion for many years and, from the overwhelming response to the first bars of the opening number, it was obvious that all felt that the wait had been worth it.

There would seem to be two main distinctive groups of Santana fans: those who can still hum the opening notes to Soul Sacrifice from the band’s eponymous live appearance at Woodstock in 1969, to those who thought Supernatural was the band’s first album and that Smooth was their first big hit .

There were certainly large amounts of followers from both camps plus a smattering of air guitar enthusiasts, as well as the occasional jazz fusion aficionados, eagerly awaiting such gems as Blues for Salvador to be performed.

In my opinion, the set list was spot on. To this end, no-one could have been disappointed.

When the house lights dimmed and the visuals from Woodstock played over the large screens, the scene was set.

And then, there it was. The opening chords of Soul Sacrifice, running straight into Jingo, then Black Magic Woman… the night was alive with musical magic. The band, resplendent in their white outfits took the audience on a two hour musical and spiritual journey.

RockSalsaFusion and funk rolling along as a never-ending trip, covering the entire spectrum of the man and his music.

What benefits a Santana performance over many other bands is the size of the band, their diversity, professionalism and the ability to come across as if they were as happy to be performing, as we were to watch and listen.

And that is another point to be cleared up. Although named after its founder and focal point, Santana is a band, not a central figure fronting a group of session musicians. Especially when the drummer happens to be Santana’s wife, Cindy Blackman-Santana, who has long been regarded as the best female drummer around.

Yes, understandably, band members have come and gone. Some have even returned on more than one occasion, most notably in 2014 when the original band gathered to record an all new album.

But, enough of the background, let us get back to the music.

Santana is fronted by guitar maestro Carlos, who, since they hit the music scene in the late sixties, has brought an amazing blend of rock, interlaced with a magical blend of percussive South American rhythms. Even the uninitiated could not avoid being caught up by the rhythmic spell which the band cast on the audience on Wednesday night.

It did not take long for their inhibitions to be shed and for a large portion of the audience to get out of their seats and spend the rest of the evening dancing and vibing to the Santana magic.

Although not a man of many words, Carlos is a gracious host, who expresses his joy of spending an evening entertaining the crowd and also passing on his message of love and peace.

Adding icing to the cake was really well balanced sound and a highly impressive lighting and visual presentation, befitting of a concert by a master musician such as Carlos.

As the band finally left the stage, some of the audience summed up their response to what they had just witnessed in a simple, yet totally understandable way, “Viva Santana, Viva !”.

Carlos is still set to perform two shows in Johannesburg (14th) and Durban (13th) this weekend