Guest Review: Santana at The O2

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SuperBreak’s Dinah was fortunate enough to get the chance to see legendary rock band Santana when they took to the stage of London’s greatest venue The O2 Arena earlier this month. Here’s her take on how the evening panned out…

Santana-Ban

It wasn’t quite the electrifying performance of “Soul Sacrifice” that lit up the legendary Woodstock Festival in the summer of 1969, but nevertheless Santana’s recent rendition of that same piece 46 years later at the O2 arena in London still sounded fresh, vibrant and dynamic.  In front of an enraptured audience, the band arrived on stage punctually and proceeded to lay down a 2 ½ hour set including a satisfying melange of older hits and more recent contemporary songs.  They even incorporated sly snatches of ‘London Bridge is falling down’ into some of their extended riffs as a gesture to the crowd.  I wondered whether they added this splash of local colour into their concerts wherever they played.  A rumbustious and ecstatically received encore was a particular highlight which included a monumental version of one of Santana’s long-standing signature songs- “Oye Como Va”- which left the audience delirious with excitement, whilst older members might equally have been warmed by feelings of nostalgia, remembering having listened to earlier versions of this epic tune.

Given that Santana emerged from the psychedelic San Francisco music scene of the late 1960’s, it was no surprise that a significant proportion of the audience at the O2 were heading towards maturity, if not already self-declared “greys”.  However the continuing and consistent commercial success of the band over nearly 50 years has meant that the musical demands of the younger audience have also been considered.  The band has constantly been replaced and re-invigorated over the years by a conveyor belt of like-minded and technically accomplished Latin-tinged musicians. Indeed the very personable young woman who served us at an excellent pre-concert meal at the well located nearby Café Rouge remembered that Santana’s music was often on the turntable in her shared house.

The band Santana has continued to produce Latin-influenced rock music in its own inimitable style.  You certainly got value for money from the band, given that the musical personnel comprised 3 drummers (including a bongo specialist), a bass and rhythm guitarist, a trombone and trumpet duo, a versatile keyboard player as well as a charismatic pair of lead singers. Standing slightly off-centre in front of the band was the legendary founder member – Carlos Santana – supervising like a benign but involved uncle- and playing a distinctive and melodic high-pitched lead guitar in harmony with the driving Latin percussion produced by fellow band members.  Not a bad performance for a 68 year old!  Favourite songs like “Samba Pa Ti” and “Smooth” were well received by the audience and a rollicking version of “Tequila” was a particular delight.

The O2 is a superb venue for bands with big sounds. The loudspeaker system is very clear and the lighting is sympathetic. As ever the in-house staff were courteous, attentive and efficient. The clearing of the arena at the end of the concert and the siphoning of people onto various transport networks to get them home was completed safely, efficiently and without fuss.

An all-round excellent evening out.

Planning your own trip to The O2 Arena this year? Tell us what you’re off to see in the comments section below!

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