Live Review: Santana + Steve Miller Band - Sydney Entertainment Centre (27.03.13)

Iconic guitarist Carlos Santana and Steve Miller Band make for one very exciting line-up, and as a sideshow to their Bluesfest appearances, both acts gave fans exactly what they wanted and humbled every amateur guitarist in attendance.

Steve Miller Band are well established for a support slot, easily dwarfing the very concept of the support being a ‘lesser’ act than the headline. Pushing 70 isn’t really an issue for Miller, as he artfully leads his band while they take us through a timeline of classic rock and some awe-inspiring musicianship, setting the perfect mood for Santana and making damn sure that fans walk away with their money’s worth.

The crowd were very quiet and attentive throughout the night, and as such there wasn’t much hooting and hollering during the wait for Santana. However, once the lights dimmed and a choir of charms rang through the stadium, the fans all got up and were treated to an explosion of sound; the stage literally went from quiet to a symphony of noise in one second as the lights shined to reveal the band had already taken stage. Of course, Santana’s screaming guitar was the commander and chief of this symphony, and the man didn’t even seem to be trying.

Little surprises were worked in throughout Santana’s catalogue, such as famous melodies from The Beatles and Carole King amongst other little interpolations. Song wise, Santana knew what we all wanted and gave us the hits, and turned them all into extended, exotic jams; some overstayed their welcome, some we didn’t want to end.

The microphone for the vocalists seemed a bit too high at times, and same goes for the keyboardist – both of these sounds were sharp and often grating when they came into the picture. As such, ‘Maria Maria’ and ‘Smooth’ weren’t anywhere near as enjoyable as they could have been had the original vocals been present; but since that would be difficult to orchestrate, the fill-ins did a decent job.

‘Black Magic Woman’ was the a highlight of the set, and sounded even more sensual as it does on record, Carlos sending out chills with his guitar and the band working together perfectly. ‘Oye Como Va’ was another high-point and had most pulling off (or trying to pull off) their Latin dancing skills, all the while Santana didn’t even bat an eyelid while blowing minds left, right, and centre.

Steve Miller was brought back out for a duet cover of 'Break on Through (To the Other Side)' by The Doors and was, of course, the night's best moment. Both Santana and Miller reflecting each other's artistry and trying to out-do each other, improvising while still doing the classic a great justice.

Santana remained sole focus of the show and his often-heartfelt speeches, about memories of his mother and how important faith is, added greatly to the on-stage picture of a famously passionate man who just happens to be one of the most lauded guitarists in the world – and he sure lived up to that reputation.