Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney NSW
April 13th 2017
Supported by: The Doobie Brothers
Carlos Santana. A name that, to anyone with the slightest amount of musical knowledge, is instantly recognizable. Arguably, up there as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, Santana continues to flaunt the unprecedented talent and stage presence he is famous for. In combination with rock and roll veterans The Doobie Brothers, Sydney was given a showcase of immense musical skill.
As one can imagine, with both groups originating in the late 60s – early 70s, they drew a relatively older crowd (This point was confirmed by the dance floors conversion into a seated area) which arguably made the support job a whole lot harder. By the time The Doobie Brothers made their way on stage, the arena was almost half full, with people slowly filling the seats through the set; not really in any rush.
The 5-piece were a solid fit although despite being placed on the bill as ‘Support’ they were given a whopping 1hr 45min set that included both a piano interlude and an encore. It’s because of this, the show was plagued with repetitive moments. The boys stayed at a consistent 50% energy until the encore. The crowd finally perking up to hear popular hit ‘Long Train Running’ which was met with a scattered few getting up to dance and a noticeably more upbeat vibe throughout the room. The boys put their vocal harmonies and skilled musicianship on display and in that regard were stellar, especially given they were being put in direct comparison with Santana himself. However the excessive amount of ‘Come Ons’ and ‘Sing it’s’ from lead vocalist Tom Johnston, were not enough to excite an arena full of people and the lack of stage presence became The Doobie Brothers downfall.
I don’t often feel the need to set a scene, but this was uniquely comical to watch…
Lights dim… People carefully hurry down the stairs with at least 4 plastic cups of white wine or beer in hand, trying unsuccessfully not to spill half of it on the floor… A man with a flip phone, prepares to film the entire set… The tension builds… Carlos walks out to the soundtrack of Santana‘s famous Woodstock performance and the crowd erupts!… into the most polite and understated round of applause that I’ve ever heard at a rock concert. It felt as though we had just began to watch Les Miserables and not the band who were high on LSD while playing at Woodstock.
It’s from here that one realizes this wasn’t supposed to be experienced like a normal gig; Santana’s spiritual 60’s revivalism was to be approached in the same way someone would approach a work of art. Santana’s talents had everyone in an awe induced silence; a silence that in any other context would have been a cause for worry due to an unresponsive crowd. Its undeniably somewhat of a culture shock to someone like myself who had just been in the same spot watching twenty one pilots play only two weeks prior. That being said it was impossible not to be pulled in by the unbelievably talented ensemble that Santana had chosen.
Through the course of the evening it became clear that although the crowd had come for Santana, they were to be treated with a total of nine uniquely picked musicians all with skill that could compare with the man himself. Santana has always consisted of a diverse range of talent that wears its cultural influences on it’s sleeve and tonight was no exception. The crowd were treated to clips of traditional African and Samoan dance along with a plethora of gorgeously sung Spanish vocals through stellar track ‘Oye Como Va.’
Then it happened…
Noticeable excitement spread through the room as the beginning riffs of ‘Smooth’ began to play. The timeless masterpiece of a song had everyone off their feet and cheering. The energy that filled the room solidified the unique experience for everyone there. The crowd would all remember this moment for the rest of their lives; the moment they experienced Santana
It’s a very rare thing to have so many ridiculously talented people in one show and it’s even rarer to have them somehow not overshadow each other on stage, yet Santana continues to achieve this again and again. I honestly believe that any budding musician who gets the opportunity to see this show needs to take it, because it will expand the very concept of your instrument and what you can achieve with it. I certainly will not be forgetting this night anytime soon.
The Doobie Brothers