12

Santana MEN Arena, Manchester 2nd October 2010

After descending the impossibly angled seating precipice to my seat, the band came on stage promptly at 8pm. It was a good job the stage was huge as there were three drummers, keyboards, a small brass section, two singers and a plethora of guitarists accompanying the great man. The expectant crowd rose to their feet and cheered as the band launched into the set.

With a large lightning graphic behind him, the spotlight fell on Carlos as he introduced the second song of the evening, and the second from the first album. From here, the audience erupted as the band went straight into 'Black Magic Woman', probably their most universally recognisable song. Everyone was hooked and the applause became louder from this point on. The band launched straight into a heavier instrumental complete with feedback and tricks from Carlos and the drummers duelling with each other. The South American rumba beats of the bongos and tom toms were enticing more and more people to stand up. The number standing grew even more as another song from the 1970 iconic album 'Abraxas', 'Oye Como Va' was played. This song still sounded fresh and the guitar playing and tone were crystal clear.

There was a slight interlude as Carlos stood before a guitar on a stand and spoke to us about God and love before asking the audience to focus 'the love' on all the females in the audience that evening; an odd request as I thought I was there for a concert. Joking aside, this was the preamble to 'Maria Maria', which did prompt over 95% to stand up and dance. The Santana back catalogue is huge and his music taken from Latin, jazz, blues, rock, salsa and just about everywhere else; no wonder he has such worldwide appeal.

We had carnival sounds and atmosphere as the audience were asked to jump up and down. They duly obliged and the place shook. We were treated to a long drum solo by Cindy Blackman before another old classic 'Jingo', with lots more percussion and of course some sublime guitar. The band eventually got around to some very up to the minute material as they launched into a cover of Led Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love' from Santana's latest album. They returned immediately to cherry pick from the best of the songs from over the years. One that really stood out for me was 'She's Not There'; delivered with feeling and some very excellent musicianship.

The band played for a total of two and a half hours and it all seemed so effortless for them. They did that many songs; everyone's individual favourite must have been catered for. Overall, it was a great evening of some very good music played by some excellent musicians.