By Wal Reid
Date / Venue: Tuesday April 18th, 2017 - Vector Arena, Auckland
There was more fretboard masturbation than you could shake a stick at, on stage at Auckland’s Vector Arena. Seventies bands, The Doobie Brothers & Santana, two of the most influential guitar groups to have shaped the course of music history, both sounding as relevant and impressive as they did in their heyday.
The unmistakeable vocal harmonies of The Doobies, succulently on display, Jesus Is Just Alright, Black Water & China Grove, had the audience on their feet, the songs seemingly hitting a spot with the crowd as the packed Vector chamber erupted into spontaneous song & dance.
Led by founding vocalists Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons, who greeted the crowd now and then, Johnston in his southern drawl with trademark moustache, while Simmons with his long locks, both men looked remarkably unchanged.
Their voices were pure, the music unrefined, I was surprised how many great songs these guys have had. Hit after hit popped up, Listen to The Music, Eyes of Silver, The Doctor, even Takin’ It to The Streets without virtuoso vocalist Michael McDonald sounded sublime.
Sax player Marc Russo was a highlight, the looming ex-Tower of Power member hitting his stride playing with a very relaxed demeanour. I couldn’t help but notice his resemblance to actor Sam Elliot.
Guitarist John McFee backing up Simmons & Johnston with his tasty guitar licks while Ed Toth kept a solid steer of things on drums, barely missing a beat.
If there was any doubt of Carlos Santana’s relevance in this day and age then, then gauging by the crowd reaction to his on stage entrance, there was no doubt who they were here to see.
His guitar sound the epitome of cool, birthed at Woodstock forty something years ago, his recognisable form with trademark hat and white attire, accented by his Paul Reed Smith guitar, as he took to the podium resembling a sight akin to a street carnival than a stage.
Three drummers (including wife Cindy Santana) each in sync providing the Latino rhythm so prominent on the Mexican/American guitarists music, as he chiselled away at hits Maria Maria, Evil Ways and hit song Black Magic Woman.
Santana has always been interested in our country’s Maori culture with an interesting rarked up version of Enya’s Orinoco Flow (Sail Away) including black & white video footage of a Maori Kapa Haka group on the giant screen.
In-between his quasi- religious rantings and Trumpism’s, “You don’t have Donald Duck with you.” The guy made his guitar do all the talking, his staccato picking piercing the Vector hall as his band partied with the Auckland crowd – it was worthwhile just hearing the guy play – Epic.
As the random bro next to me said, “Its not everyday you see four guitarists.” Referring to the earlier Doobie’s spectacle. Well, including Santana that’s a whole lot of guitar solo for your money, ‘fretboard masturbating’ aside it was definitely worthwhile, and yes, there was a ‘happy’ ending.