There are some performances that are hard to review because they’re simply that good. Finding the words, to sum up not one, but two renowned acts that speak for themselves through their own brilliance is not an easy task. Saturday night at Perth Arena with Carlos Santana and The Doobie Brothers was one of these rare, but wonderful occasions.
The Doobie Brothers kicked off with Jesus is Just Alright, much to fan’s excitement. Their faultless harmonies were attention grabbing instantaneously and beautifully blended into well-constructed tunes. Hitting the sweet spot with their infectious melodies and blues-driven beats, the band gelled together perfectly.
Time-honoured tracks that got the audience grooving were Spirit, Takin’ it to the Streets, Rockin’ Down the Highway and Dark Eyed Cajun Woman, where singer/lead guitarist Tom Johnston yelled out “we’re here to play some rock n’ roll, ya’ll cool with that!?” The funk was turned up a notch with the massive Black Water, and Long Train Running got the entire front of stage standing up. How could you not? They were putting on one hell of a funk-fest with songs that have become deeply embedded in our musical culture.
Complete with Marc Ross’ seductive sax solos and solid piano parts by Little Feat’s own Bill Payne, the 7-piece band went above and beyond to bring you a killer performance. The Doobie Brothers controlled the tempo like Stephen Hawking controls our perception of black holes. They showed their maturity, true professionalism and dedication by just how tight they are together. Everything was on point for a show that was pretty flawless and energetic. And it ticked all the right boxes.
Carlos Santana burst out on stage with People are You Ready and Love Makes the World Go Round, backed by an explosion of big drums and a massive sound of world class Latin-infused rock. Santana’s act combined the talents of a versatile group including his wife, drummer Cindy Blackman who’d previously performed with Lenny Kravitz, two sound vocalists, a percussionist, conga player and keyboardist. The fusion added authenticity to the set, with each individual adding a unique punch.
Perth fans were treated to a truly spectacular show, Santana’s first in our isolated city since 1973. His music injected a level of love, light and positivity with African tribal-rock and a handful of cover songs before the classic Maria Maria made its way into the set. Cultured sounds of Mexican-Motown infused grooves created diversity, as the singers rolled in and out of Spanish tongue.
Manning up to play a new song, which they weaved their own magic thing into, Santana and crew played their version of The Doors’ Light My Fire. Adding anything more to an already perfected song would be something many artists’ wouldn’t dare to touch, but Santana’s guitar licks and the musician’s flair formulated a fantastic dimension to a classic tune.
Black Women Magic, Wicked Ways, Soul Sacrifice, Samba Pa Ti and Enya’s Sail Away added to the impressive setlist. Smooth finally got the audience dancing, after Santana asking earlier on “why you all sitting down!?” But the contrast between the two sets was massive. The crowd were more still this time around – in a good way. The room was mesmerised by his every move, captivated and silent in parts, as Santana melted fans with every string he strung.
With talk about ‘taking some acid, having a tequila shot and drinking Australian beer’, Santana got real with his fans. “There’s no lip-syncing here, just connection and no bullshit. The world is infected by fear and we are the ones that can make a difference and create a whole new world“. He was filled with passion, reminding everyone just how good it feels to be free, quoting Bob Marley’s ‘free yourself from mental slavery’. Santana and Marley’s wise words warmed the crowd who continued to cheer him on, admiring his brilliance and beautiful soul.
Santana’s psychedelic nature of some of his music was colourful as he reminisced about the year of 1969, joking he was still high from Woodstock days. Children from the crowd were pulled up on stage with footage of the infamous festival playing on the screens in the background, stunned to be joining on percussion in front of an almost sold-out crowd with the legend himself.
As a writer who usually connects with the lyrics of a song first, it was impressive to hear how well the guitar parts held their own ground live. But that should come as no surprise, being Santana and all. The solos were enough to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck and fill your soul with goosebumps and good vibes. Lyrics didn’t matter as much with Santana’s live performance, the way he plays speaks a thousand words on their own.
The purity of Santana’s performance was sustained from beginning to end. There may only be four elements that exist, but when a true musician is in their zone, they create a fifth. And that’s some exceptional magic right there. Happiness and ease oozed from his pores. Santana was in his element – they all were, and they had the goods to prove it.
It’s hard to fault a gig that’s so profound and flawless. The only disappointments, however, were the lack of a few other great hits that could’ve made the bill. There was no encore either, which was a bit of a bummer, but who needs an encore when you’ve already dominated the performance and entire evening? There’s something dynamic about Santana’s music and his show Saturday night that just felt like home. And that feeling he gave out through his music and stage presence was pretty special. Projecting world-renowned musical signatures that were precise, vibrant and complex, it was a night of lucid talent. Both The Doobie Brothers and Santana put on a mindblowing show. Not that we could’ve expected anything less from these guys, but wow – they know how to rock your world!