Santana Tour European Tour Blog - Part 2 (By Gary Rashid)
On Sunday June 29th, 2008 Carlos and the band returned to Bratislava,
Slovakia anxious to deliver their special brand of musical illumination
that was abruptly forced into postponement by the fierce display of
thunder, lightning an intense rain mentioned at the end of the last
On this day, the sun shone warmly. Shango, the Yoruba God of thunder
and lightning, is nowhere in sight and it promised to be a warm,
uninterrupted evening of intense, joyful music, which the band was
anxious to deliver.
As frustrating as the two-day wait had been to both Carlos and
Bratislava, the interim delay was filled with two more incredible
performances by the band.
After the band was forced into retreat by the foul weather in
Bratislava, everyone packed up and headed to Warsaw, Poland, which
would be the next scheduled performance.
Warsaw appeared to be ready and certainly the band was more than ready!
A discouraging moment of surprise and disbelief settled in as everyone
began to observe the skies turn a menacing dark grey. Suddenly at about
6 pm, an intense, wind-driven rain complimented with a healthy portion
of thunder and lightning descended on the venue. With intense ferocity,
the storm caused an instantaneous deluge of rain. Was it possible that
Shango had followed the entourage to Warsaw, intent on inflicting yet
another frustrating delay for the band and their anxious audience?
If you were sitting with Carlos in his dressing room, even with a
backdrop of dark skies and driving rain, you would have noticed that
there was, amazingly, was no visible sign of concern showing on his
face. It appeared that Carlos, despite the immediate weather
conditions, was determined to fulfill the union of spirit intended for
his eager audience even if it meant putting on a raincoat and engaging
his audience with an all acoustic musical set under the balconies of
Fortunately, none of this would be necessary. By 8pm, shortly before
the scheduled time of performance, the skies, by some miracle, cleared,
the rain stopped and the dedicated audience that refused to accept
defeat by inclement weather made it's way back to the main part of the
soccer field from wherever they had been sheltered from the storm.
Carlos and the band hit the stage with far more intensity than the
storm that preceded them. From the first percussive intro of "Jingo" to
the last grooving beat of "Into The Night" it appeared that the
audience would leave fully satiated and the potential disappointment
that threatened earlier was long forgotten.
To date, this was visibly one of the tour's most grateful and
enthusiastic audiences. They demonstrated this fact with much zeal
during the song "Foo Foo" where it has become typical to see audiences
engage in an exercise of calisthenics when prompted by the band to jump
up and down to the rhythm of the music.
This was, for many band members, their first trip to Poland, however, there would be no sightseeing in Warsaw on this trip.
Carlos and the band said goodnight to Warsaw and immediately left the
stage after the show, headed for the airport where the band's charter
jet waited to transport everyone to the next destination, Budapest,
After a late night of travel, the band quickly settled into their hotel
rooms. A few couldn't resist the urge to take a short walk in the warm
summer evening across one of the oldest and most famous bridges that
crosses the river separating Buda and Pest. The bridge was fully
illuminated and closed to auto traffic. Local vendors had stalls
aligned along one side of the roadway where they were selling local
crafts and grilled foods. It was a colorful scene with locals and
tourists mixing together, celebrating Hungarian culture and an
exceptionally beautiful evening.
Show day began with a magnificently beautiful morning. The band was
scheduled to play a free concert sponsored by the city, slated to begin
in the late afternoon. An audience of over 200,000 people was expected
(in fact, the final estimated number of people that filled the nooks
and crannies in the streets of Budapest in and around the city center
was estimated to be much closer to 300,000!).
After several local musical acts performed, the band was ready to take the stage.
With more than 200,000 'Santana hungry' (no pun intended!) souls
stretched out far beyond the visible horizon, Carlos and his platoon of
musical warriors began to wage an inspired musical assault that would
reach to any point of the horizon and beyond.
With his goldtop Paul Reed Smith guitar in hand, Carlos released his
heart in brilliant fulisades of shimmering, shining, singing notes into
the midst of this sea of smiling faces. As always, every member of the
band had a musical supporting or counter-point statement to add.
In particular, trumpet solos by Bill Ortiz and trombone solos by Jeff
Cressman delighted the audience. The percussive pyrotechnics generated
by the Latin percussion section, featuring Karl Perazzo and Raul Rekow,
always ignites a roar of approval from the crowd and tonight would
exemplify that fact.
Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay work hard elevating the audience's energy
level, sharing their hi-energy vocal duties on many of the band's most
popular songs such as, "Black Magic Woman", "Smooth", "Corazon
As Carlos and the band enjoyably cruised through familiar musical
territory, the cheers of appreciation amplified with the resolution of
Once again the "Foo Foo" elicited, the now commonplace, jumping
exercise. An excellent way for the audience to vent the physical
excitement that Santana music is always guaranteed to generate. A sea
of delighted fans engaged in jumping up and down in mind-boggling
synchronicity with the rhythmic pulsing of the band.
In another highlight, Carlos ventured forth with an elongated
improvisation during "Samba Pa Ti" with references to Gabor Szabo (one
of Hungary's greatest jazz guitarists).
As the last whisper of the sun faded into the night, Carlos and the
band roared through the remainder of the set and then said goodbye
with, and went "Into the Night".
Sunday June 29th the band was forced to give up one of their few
scheduled days off to return to Bratislava and make good on their
commitment to bring the audience there the Santana experience they had
unexpectedly been deprived of.
This performance would be the third of what will now become a string of
six straight shows the band will have to fulfill. Carlos and the band
will have to unpack the superman suits (which they all carry just in
case) and march on.
Cancellations are an unfortunate reality from time to time but they
always leave Carlos feeling frustrated that he could not meet his
audience at the appointed time. This will always work in their favor,
for when Carlos returns to make good on his musical promise, he will do
so with an eager vengeance. Such was the case in Bratislava.
Carlos and the band came to the stage with full force and delivered yet another inspired performance.
For this evening's performance the weather was warm and clear. Of the many highlights that transpired on this evening, a blistering
Hammond organ solo by Chester Thompson on the song "Savor" certainly
stood out. Carlos introduced a song called "Scripture" (a song of unknown origin)
and improvised beautifully, creating an ethereal 'special of the night'
for the listeners. In another mystical foray for the evening, Carlos coxed Andy Vargas to
the spotlight to improvise a few vocal touches while Carlos flirted a
little with the doors song "The End". The slightly dark, Moorish flavor of the Door's masterpiece seemed to
fit this unique evening quite well. After yet another stellar
performance and the commitment fulfilled, once again it was time to
leave and head off to Verona, Italy for what will become a fourth
The late night journey to Verona began with a little 'white-knuckle'
adventure as the pilots of the band's 18 seat jet did their best to
dodge and weave through one of the more menacing thunderstorms this
writer has had the pleasure of experiencing. Fortunately the plane
landed safely and everyone piled into the waiting vans destined for the
hotel. The trip to the hotel was a blinding display of incredible
lightning that sporadically illuminated the entire surrounding
landscape as well as several deafening barrages of thunder.
For the stay in Verona, the band was treated to one of the most
interesting, unique and beautiful hotels on the tour yet. Stated to be
a 'villa' the entrance appeared more like that of small palace. Upon
entrance to a grand foyer, everyone was instantaneously mesmerized by
an incredible 'Alice In Wonderland' -like effect created by an amazing
collection of extremely colorful examples of modern art. Someone
apparently came up with a unique concept that incorporates a modern art
museum within a luxury hotel. Perhaps, we as guests appeared as
'objects de art'. A very temporary exhibit!
Cloaked in beautiful gardens and graced with a gorgeous pool, this was
an ideal nest for the group to catch a small amount of rest and
relaxation before getting on what's most important, the music.
For this night's concert, the group got in the vans and wove through
the tiny streets of Verona to the ruins of an ancient Greco/Roman
coliseum. It was a warm beautiful night and the venue was solidly
packed. The band was enthusiastically greeted as they fired up the
night with "Jingo". As expected, the band muscled through a tight set
that included a few special treats. In one amendment to the usual set
list, Carlos led the band with ample improvisation through a beautiful
mood piece titled "Spanish Key" (from the Miles Davis album "Bitches
In another highlight, Dennis Chambers hit hard and dazzled the audience
with one of his incomparable drum solos that always impresses.
Carlos, always improvising and referencing a wide variety of musical
sources, treated the audience to an exceptional moment of some serious
blues. Any fan familiar with the deep blues sounds of Buddy Guy and
Junior Wells would have been pleased by the way Carlos incorporated the
essence of their musical vision, enhanced it and made it his own. So concluded yet another powerful evening of music and a beautiful night in Verona. It will be awhile yet before the band members can send their Superman
suits out for dry cleaning. It's off to Salzburg, Austria and show
After a quick check-in to a quaint classic hotel, on the same block
where Mozart was born, band members caught a little rest and prepared
for the next performance. Show number five would be indoors with an opening artist that has preceded Santana many times before.
Robert Randolf and the Family Band were well received and gave an
excellent performance. Robert's mesmerizing steel pedal guitar work and
his hi-energy connection with the audience is an ideal entrГ©e for
After a brief set-change intermission, Santana hit the stage with the
usual, expected amount of vigor. With no visible sign of fatigue, the
band proceeded forward as usual with an energetic and inspired musical
Highlights for this show would include many improvisational meanderings
by Carlos. Of particular note was his expression during the second part
of "Incident At Neshbur" where Carlos always finds a galaxy of
pathways to travel.
Another exceptional treat for the audience came when Bill Ortiz fused
his exquisite trumpet playing with Carlos bluesy guitar work on a Miles
Davis composition titled "Capri", a very beautiful mood piece.
As with every show so far on this tour the evening ended with the audience energetically thumping approval to "Into The Night".
Once again, Santana also disappeared into the night, back to the hotel
to get some sleep and then a quick trip over the mountains for show
number six in Salem, Germany.
The following day, the band checked into a beautiful hotel situated on
the shore of a large gorgeous lake. Surrounded by much greenery and
tall trees and a spectacular view of the lake the group had just enough
time to catch their breath and soak up just a little of the
peacefulness that surrounded the hotel before hopping on the bus that
would transport the band to show number six!
The venue for this night's performance was set in a large outdoor
plaza. Situated around the perimeter of the plaza were many examples of
classic European architecture including a very impressive old church.
The pre-show meal for the band and crew was setup in a very ornate,
princely stable where dinner tables were placed within the stalls.
Rumor had it that the entire grounds did, in fact, belong to royalty of
some kind. With the plaza packed to its edges, once again, Robert Randolph And The
Family Band warmed up the crowd with generous helping of Robert's
scintillating steel pedal guitar work.
It was a beautiful night. Carlos and the band hit the stage one more
time to play their hearts out for the sixth consecutive evening.
The eager crowd was ready to receive the first anxiously awaited dose
of fire from their beloved Santana with the always energetic,
percussive laden "Jingo".
The show was on and unfolded in typical fashion with a mixture of vocal
and instrumental brilliance that always shines on a Santana audience
and is then reflected back to the stage with the audience's
enthusiastic roar of applause.
Highlights for this performance would include Carlos and Bill Ortiz trading solos on John Coltrane's "Naima".
Carlos, as he does almost every show, added many beautiful
improvisational touches to the later section of "Incident At Neshbar"
where he always finds a variety of musical references to visit. If one
were listening closely, they would have heard a musical quote from the
Beatle's "Fool On The Hill" Carlos also unleashed a searing solo on
About halfway through the show Carlos introduced Robert Randolph who
would join the band with his steel pedal guitar for the following four
songs: "Curacion (Sunlight on Water)" a new instrumental from the just
released double CD set titled "Multi Dimensional Warrior"; "Right
On/Umi Says"; Marvin Gaye's "After The Dance" and some vintage R &
B in a song titled "Funky Nassau" originally recorded by a somewhat
obscure band called 'The Beginning of The End".
After a big hug from Carlos, Robert left the stage and the band closed
out the rest of the show with the typical amount of intensity and
brilliance. There was, at last, a small collective sigh of relief that, finally,
the band could take a short respite from performing and enjoy a day off
in Leipzig, Germany, the next stop of the tour.