As the reunited 60s Santana line-up ready themselves for their home run at this showcase gig, Carlos Santana leans into the microphone and suggests that if anyone has brought some mescaline, now might be a good time to take it.
Carlos may have survived the maelstrom that created and destroyed one of the most exhilarating bands of the late 60s by taking a more spiritual path, but he has not forgotten the chemistry – or chemicals – that fuelled them.
Last year’s Santana IV album was a creditable attempt to follow Santana III – albeit 45 years later – pushing their Latin-rock fusion rather than the jazzier direction the reconstituted band actually followed it with on Caravanserai. Wisely the reunited band acted their age, relying on maturity rather than youthful hedonism.
They take the same approach live, blending the new material with the old, but there’s nothing tentative as guitarists Carlos and Neal Schon swoop and soar around the incessant Latin beats. If you’d taken the mescaline as prescribed you should be peaking as they rip into Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen and Oye Como Va from Abraxas, and then floating as the sprightly Ronald Isley makes a guest appearance on vocals. It all sounds pretty good on a can of John Smith’s Bitter too.