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Home > Music

Gig review: Oye Como Rubbish

by Jane Skelton

25 January 2004

Back at the arse-end of 2003, on a windy night at Wembley, I experienced what can at best be described as a musical enema. The happy poppy beats tore up my back-passage, and flushed out every last drop of my old Santana-worshipping self.

I first saw Santana play live in 1991 at the Hammersmith Odeon, amid a sea of hippie-beards and clouds of ganja. The riffs and the rhythm (and the great lungfuls of passively-smoked pot) took me, and I was boogieing up the aisles like it was Woodstock – even though, as far as I recall, I kept my top on. It ranks as one of the best times of my life, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

But I was struck cruelly back down to earth by the sight of a man in a tropical shirt, baggy cream cords and a hat, that made him look like the bastard lovechild of Magnum and Minnie the Moocher. Carlos Santana. Satan in a panama.

It soon became clear that Carlos had no intention of singing even a single song, so instead random individuals (part of the Santanic empire – a sort of Latin version of the New Power Generation) took turns to sing the latest cheesy offerings from the Supernatural and Shaman albums. Strangely, they were always accompanied by a spiky-haired sweaty guy, in a cut off t-shirt, who for each song waved his arms around like a Limp Bizkit groupie.

And behind it all, Carlos grinned and noodled along to the sub-Iulio Iglesias nonsense. Cheesy noodles. I felt sick.


Everything on stage seemed at odds with everything else. And the audience was at odds with what I remembered a Santana audience to be like: they looked as if they’d come to watch a matinee of Love Actually. Santana has become so bloody mainstream and commercial (ya! boo! sell out!) that it felt like a Kays Catalogue day out: blondes in Burberry, and guys with floppy hair in sensible v-neck sweaters. I was drowning in Middle England. Not one rock T-shirt in sight. Not a whiff of weed…

For the sickly denouement of the show, a huge projection screen played a badly looped image of a dove flapping its wings, and Satan took the mic. As he spoke, the image alternated between the flappy bird and (a nod to the Teletubbies?) a cutesy baby’s face lightly superimposed over the planet earth:

“We are multi-dimensional spirits made out of light. You have the capacity to co-create Heaven on Earth…”

…please God no more Carlos…

“…to make peace you need understanding and compassion…”

Simple as that. Then there was an amazingly cringe-inducing moment when he tried to get all political:

“Mass destruction weapons don’t exist. We belong to the other side of America who doesn’t agree with George Bush. We say to Bush and Blair: hate and anger crystallize your existence."

Baffled faces looked back at the finger-wagging Carlos, anxious that they might be called upon to boo the foreign policy of New Labour - or would that be crystallizing the anger of existence? Or might we have to join Carlos in co-creating Heaven on Earth? Co-creating Heaven and Earth seems like an awfully big job, and we should probably get on with it. But where to start? Oh lead us the way out of this darkness oh wise guitar legend, what should we do?

Here’s the deal:

“It is the time for a collective conscious awakening – you need to think good thoughts, and remember there are angels all around us.”

And with that, he took a preachy little bow and buggered off. I’m guessing he hopped back onto his private jet, buckled himself in and chuckled all the way back to never never land. As for me, I was parked illegally, and my car got clamped.

Understanding and compassion my arse, I want that clamper's head on a pike.

Thanks to David Parker for the photographs.

More music on the ACME music blog.

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