Review Scene: Santana and the Doobie Brothers, Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne – 11th April 2017

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The Doobies were musically excellent and presented what could be, for them, a potentially boring and repetitive repertoire with enthusiasm. The presence of Bill Payne (keys player, Little Feat) was a plus. The rhythm section of John Cowan and Ed Toth was excellent. The Vocals of John Cowan were also excellent.

The sound was good, except in my opinion the kick drum was too much in the mix and the low end bloom from it made achieving distinctive bass difficult resulting in Santana being bottom heavy due to a) the need to accommodate a driving three piece percussion ensemble and b) the use of a conventional amp and fold back setup which also needed to be accommodated.

Click to see the full gallery by Mandy Hall.
My listening position may have been particularly susceptible and the arena itself may be boomy but modern systems and clever mixes should aware of this be able to cope.
That being said, the Doobies sound was excellent helped partly by no amps/fold back on stage apart from the AC30 with spare back up used by Tom Johnston. It may not have been on but if so was a predictable sound to work with as he used the one guitar and mostly the same setting.
For the Doobie Brothers it was only during the acoustic version of “Clear as the Driven Snow” that the overbearing kick presented itself.


Bill Payne keyboard solo; Vocal Harmonies; Enthusiasm of band.
Pat Simmons “I used to be a Hippy. Now I’m just an old grandpa.

Band Lineup

 • Tom Johnston – guitars, keyboards, harmonica, vocals
• Patrick Simmons – guitars, banjo, flute, vocals
• John McFee – guitars, harmonica, dobro, pedal steel, violin, vocals
• John Cowan – bass guitar, vocals
• Bill Payne – keyboards
• Marc Russo – saxophones
• Ed Toth – drums

Santana was more spontaneous, working within a fairly wide framework which is achieved by a) being brave enough to improvise and b) long time band members who are familiar with the directional possibilities.

Click to see the full gallery by Mandy Hall.

Variety from the guitar work was provided with solos by all instruments and an excellent, almost gospel ballad by vocalist Ray Greene.

Santana himself was as we have come to expect from a long and known career, even though I have not previously seen him live. The guitar mix front and centre over the band is straight out of the Albert King method and it works. I guess many reviewers will focus on him and rightly so as he has proved to be a successful journeyman.

The percussion section worked feverishly all night. It was quite an impressive effort. Whilst I understand it is part of the genre I would have preferred they wind it down a bit to allow space for the mix problems mentioned above.


Tommy Anthony’s solid rhythm guitar work and outstanding vocals were understated and almost unnoticeable but impeccable. I believe in Adelaide he broke into a version of Roxanne which would have been good to hear.

Ray Greene’s heartfelt gospel/holler tinged ballad – I don’t usually go for that sort of thing.

Band Lineup

• Carlos Santana – lead guitar, vocals, percussion (1966–present)
• Benny Rietveld – bass (1990–1992, 1997–present)
• Karl Perazzo – percussion (1991–present)
• Ray Greene – vocals (2016–present)
• Andy Vargas – vocals (2000–present)
• Tommy Anthony – rhythm guitar, vocals (2005–present)
• David K. Mathews – keyboards (2011–present)
• Paoli Mejías – percussion (2013–present)
• Cindy Blackman Santana – drums (2017)