Airports to Elbows

I am in Peru, and it’s Tuesday morning – last stop on a seemingly endless run of South American airports. One last show, three more airports, and we’ll be home.

Buenos Aires was dirty and non-stop. We flew there, dropped our bags and built the show. Then we slept, pulled off the night without the 12,000 lb video wall dragging the roof down. It did bend, and the local-provided projection tower stage left came crashing down in the wind during the last song. We showered back at the hotel, and headed off to the airport.

Santiago was completely different, and we spent even less time there. Hotel, eat, sleep, set up, do a decent show, back to hotel – shower, pack, and head down to lobby. One of the guys in the crew came down early with me to jump in a cab and race across town. Cab screeches to a halt in front of the podium where the first female president was inaugurated the day before, then out of the cab, run across the square, and get a picture of me in front of the statue of Bernardo O’Higgins. In the blur I saw during the round trip photo op, Santiago is an amazing place. The city in a word, is, ‘Stately.’ It is a grand South American metropolis – with plenty of older and historical buildings maintained and respected throughout. Santiago is a living, breathing city. It’s a place that exudes strength, confidence, and grace – tough enough to fight it out over the years, and graceful enough to look like it didn’t age a day doing it.

Airport to airport, and we’re in Porto Alegre, Brazil – kind of a sleepy and biggish coastal city in southern Brazil. Sheraton’s back door led into a small three-tiered shopping mall with all the general supplies and services necessary. The hotel’s front door spilled out in a slant to a street lined with curious restaurants, boutiques, and cafes. Our neighborhood felt a little like California on a disposable income’s sunny afternoon. So, we spent a lazy two-day rest going nowhere, seeing nothing, and enjoying the warm night air of summer’s end, with a coffee at one of the sidewalk tables, watching passersby. Meanwhile, back at the show, this one turned out to be our best as a production. Everyone was on their game. We left rested and happy.

Another morning, another airport. Sao Paulo immediately joined the ranks of cities I never want to return to. No longer will the L.I. Expressway, or the I-405 be the benchmarks for miserably standstill traffic. Cairo is nothing. Sao Paulo locals have to call an ambulance at least six hours before their illness if they want to get to a hospital alive. All we could think about on the slow barge to the hotel was how long it would take to leave. So we did the show, went straight to the airport, and flew into the day of show set up in Rio.

Our luggage went to the hotel without us. To make things more exciting there was a TV shoot added to the evening. The show was a great one, but still not the magic of Porto Alegre. We loaded out and went back to our rooms with balconies that opened onto the pounding surf … for two dark hours – then off to the airport. If Rio’s supposed to be an exciting place, it’ll have to do it without us; we’re off to Peru.

Lima has a great personality, and makes it’s own clothes. The hotel has a cliff-high view of the early Fall coast, and the mist rides the winds toward our rooms. We’re happy here. It’s not beautiful in its mountain sloping desert to the sea, but it’s kind, and we have a real day off in South America.

I took a small group of us to the local pre-Incan ruins of Pachacamac, and then on to a giant mercado for local wares. It was the kind of day everyone envisioned this southern hemisphere leg to be, with laughter, photos, and gifts for the families. Civilian smiles appeared from behind road-worn benevolent grins.

The last show started out as a back-yard kind of performance. We had done variations up till now, and were going into this one very comfortable. Good thing the yard was big enough; somewhere between 22K-25K Peruvians from every walk of life showed up to fill the place.

The funny thing was, we needed to make them as comfortable as we were. From the “Peace Intro” to the acoustic “Concerto” they sat with folded hands placed demurely in their laps. We had hand-carved a show to a point of professional malleability, and a grateful polite crowd was not going to stop Carlos, the band, or the crew.

We worked hard from “Maria Maria,” to Brahms 3rd, to incite and maintain a stage-hugging crowd of music lovers. We can do that sort of thing – we’re Santana.

By R.A. Higgins