Santana & Singapore by Hal Miller
The 2017 Santana Transmogrify Tour in Asia & Down Under kicked off in Singapore. The first basic fact one must understand when it comes to Singapore is that there are no shortcuts to this beautiful and enchanting place. No matter where you live in the U.S., a trip/trek to Singapore is a long haul, a day out of your life, the veritable trip that never ends.
Some of the band or crew used the San Francisco to Tokyo to Singapore route, some from the East took the Houston-Tokyo- Singapore route, and some departing in Europe went the Frankfurt-Istanbul- Singapore way. Depending on the city of departure, some had additional connecting flights added to their itineraries. But no matter how you sliced it, getting to Singapore took roughly twenty hours and most arrived in the middle of the night/morning to discover that after all this travel, they were a day ahead of the places they had left.
The band had two days to rest and recuperate. Just about everyone took advantage of this opportunity to explore this very hi-tech city-state off the coast of Malaysia with a tropical climate and multi-cultural population. We were all quite mindful of Singapore’s no-nonsense approach to littering, its prohibition of chewing gum, and its general attitude about cleanliness and orderliness. There is so much to see and experience in this near-pristine far-off place and we all crammed as much sightseeing and restaurant hopping as we could.
There was one rehearsal to get the rust off and fine tune a few songs. Carlos, reaching back to an old favorite, The Doors, began to play around with “Light My Fire” and a half hour or so later, the band had a new song “Fire” for its Transmogrify Tour. It really was a group effort with vocalists Ray Greene, Andy Vargas, and Tommy Anthony coming up with some great parts and imaginative arrangements. Cindy Blackman Santana suggested a new rhythmic pattern and veteran rhythm masters Karl Perazzo and Paoli Mejias quickly caught on. It was fascinating to see this venerable rock anthem come to life in its new iteration, the Santana way.
The next day, Show Day, was yet another demonstration of the prowess of the Santana crew. As they do every time no matter where, no matter when, under just about every conceivable condition, this group of veteran Santana staff had the stage, lights, sound, and logistics totally in order and concert ready. When the lights went down as the opening strains of “O Paradiso” and the on-screen Buddha visuals filled the hall, the packed house was thrilled and ready for a night of Santana musical mayhem. They might have been momentarily shocked by the explosiveness of “Are You Ready People” but they recovered quickly and roared with delight as Carlos made his entrance.
It was another one of those Santana nights with old songs, and new songs performed with almost no intervening breaks. There was too much to do in too short a time. They sang along with “Maria Maria” and “Corazón Espinado” and, led by a few intrepid souls, broke into dances with “Jingo”. Carlos’ solo on the ballad section of “Incident at Neshabur” inspired a seemingly reverential and awed silence in marked contrast to the loud and frenzied reception for the percussion workout of “Toussaint L’Overture”.
Santana has always been a band of surprise and its new, half-tempo treatment of “She’s Not There” made this old warhorse take on an entirely different- almost sultry- set of clothes, and it looked good, indeed. There were so many highlights, so many memorable moments-exactly what Carlos was aiming for. The stunned admiration for Cindy’s extended and superbly crafted solo, the total appreciation of the “Orinoco/Rain/Kate” triptych with its moving Benny Rietveld (bass) and David K.Mathews (keyboards) solo spots, and the instant recognition and delight with “Samba Pa Ti”- all these and others combined to give the Singapore audience everything they could have hoped for and exactly what Carlos wanted:”We want to give you a memorable evening. We came a long way to get here and we are so pleased and happy to play for you.”
Next stop:Perth, Australia, a relatively short flight of five hours.