London Wembley Arena


[I] NME [/I]is in hell. When everybody is screaming, nobody can hear you scream...

[I]”We are all surrounded by angels,”[/I] drivels [a]Carlos Santana[/a] before embarking on another egregiously elongated guitar solo. Actually, [I]NME[/I] is surrounded by an overheated throng of Latino youths, fat-arsed prog-rock enthusiasts and the straight but enthused crowd you’d expect if this were [I]Gladiators[/I] or a David Copperfield show.[I] NME [/I]is in hell. When everybody is screaming, nobody can hear you scream…

Santana has swept back to improbable megadom on the back of the post-Ricky Martin craze for all things Latino. At one point, a guitarist comes forward and plucks out some perfunctory acoustic chords which a year ago wouldn’t even have got him a tip if he’d come busking around the tables at an Islington cantina. Tonight, however, the audience gasps with awe at his efforts as if David Copperfield were flying around the rafters. Everyone’s gone mad.

Anyway, here’s Santana, accompanied by a bevy of percussionists, vocalists, keyboards and brass section. They look appalling. The bassist is wearing inexcusably red trousers, the vocalist a turquoise silver-foil shirt and Santana himself sports stained, painter-and-decorator’s leggings.

They sound OK when the percussionists cut loose with some irresistibly hot jumping-bean rhythms, but these salsa touches are inevitably smothered in prog-rock jam and a blather of gratuitously virtuoso ’70s fretwankery from Santana himself. ‘Maria Maria’ and ‘Smooth’ bring the audience to their feet but, like an agnostic at a church service, [I]NME[/I] would sooner remain seated, staring at the squirming fat arse of the man in the row ahead than at Santana worrying over his 93rd tortuously bland guitar solo of this thoroughly miserable evening.