[LIVE REVIEW] Santana w/ The Doobie Brothers @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne 11/04/2017

Review Cassandra Hale

The Doobie Brothers’ debut self titled album was released in 1971, which coincidentally is the same year I was born. It is hard to believe this ridiculously tight unit have been playing their sensational tunes for 45 years and still sound as fresh as a daisy today. Jesus is Just Alright opened the night with a bang, and they were off and Rockin’ Down the Highway much to the delight of the cheering fans. While it was not a rowdy crowd, it was a very appreciative one, thoroughly enjoying the music many of them had grown up with.

The set list of 16 was the perfect length and mix of their back catalogue, including Takin’ It To The Streets, Music is the Doctor, Black Water and China Grove just to name a few. Their commitment to making great music covering many genres such as bluegrass, country and rock and roll is evident in every song they sing. Their enjoyment is obvious which makes for a very pleasurable experience for all in the venue.

Having sold over 48 million albums worldwide is such a testament to this band which has stood the test of time, being no mean feat in todays music climate. The harmonies were brilliant and musically they were faultless, with a sax solo that had to be seen to be believed. Truly a delight to every ones ears, we knew it couldn’t go on forever but we were all hopeful for a few more.

After a brief exit the boys were back doing what they do best, keeping everyone rocking the night away with Without You. Of course the night would not be complete without the classic Listen to the Music, and what a finisher it was! Everyone was up and dancing, enjoying a sing-a-long with these ‘too cool for school’ performers. I must admit I was sad it was over and thoroughly enjoyed every minute.


It was certainly a much more dynamic stage setup for Santana, with his entourage of drummers and percussionists a sight to behold. I was immediately struck by Santana’s low key approach to his music. Whilst he might be maestro of his trade you would never now it, so very humble and just enjoying himself without being showy or arrogant.  His unique wailing rang out for all to enjoy with a fantastic choice of songs including Maria Maria, Foo Foo and A Love Supreme to warm up the adoring fans. Then it was time to sail away with Orinoco Flow, I absolutely loved this rocked up version and it seemed to be enjoyed by all.

Santana’s choice of singers was spot on, this dynamic duo sang the night away as well as keeping all the additional percussion instruments covered. One half of this duo, Ray Greene was exceptional, but not just his voice, his trombone skills were exceptional, and I must add he was clearly a doppelganger for Seal, and had the voice to match.  

I loved the interaction and brief chats with the captivated audience.  Santana’s message was one of love and beauty and a hope to change the world with people power, which was a welcome change and kept to the spiritual theme of the night.  The classic Santana sound was almost mesmerising and one could not help but sway in your seat with a little shoulder shimmy thrown in for good measure.


The Zombies cover She’s Not There, followed up by Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone were a fantastic combination and at times it was hard to determine the end and beginning of songs as they just flowed into one another with ease.  With only a few solos of his own it was evident that it was not the Carlos Santana show but a group effort from all on stage and it worked perfectly. There was not a lot of guitar changes with Santana favouring his signature PRS Goldtop for the duration of the show, and while we all knew this man could play, to see it in the flesh was sensational.

Black Magic Woman brought everyone to their feet, dancing in their seats, singing along hoping to hold onto this amazing spectacle for as long as they could.  After a few more songs it was time for the drum/percussion solos, and they blew it right out of the arena. Santana’s wife Cindy Blackman Santana was a machine and I was surprised to see her kit still standing at what can only be described as a total assault to your senses and your ear drums!

While Smooth may have been lacking the vocals of Rob Thomas, this was no cause for concern, the singers were fabulous and the song was a sensational way to see out the night. Love, Peace and Happiness ended it all, and I think it was Santana’s intention for us all to take these three simple things away with us and hopefully make the world a better place. With just a quick wave goodbye the two hour show was over, but I can assure you not one fan left disappointed.