Carlos Santana - guitar, percussion, vocals; Greg Walker - lead vocals, percussion; Tom Coster - keyboards, vocals; David Margen - bass, vocals; Graham Lear - drums, percussion; Armando Peraza - congas, bongos; Raul Rekow- congas, percussion; Pete Escovedo - timbales; Guest: Francisco Vega - congas
The 1972 release of Caravanserai signaled a new more experimental approach for Santana, incorporating elements of jazz and African rhythms into the already heady brew. Bandleader Carlos Santana also began actively pursuing projects outside the group context over the course of the next several years. Drawing heavily from Miles Davis and the jazz-fusion scene that developed in his orbit, Carlos began working with members of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, and Return To Forever. Like Mahavishnu Orchestra guitarist, John McLaughlin, Carlos also became a disciple of the spiritual teacher Sri Chimnoy, changing his name to Devadip Carlos Santana and pursuing music that in his own words "would create a bridge so people can have more trust and hope in humanity." Spirituality aside, McLaughlin's influence would also have a strong effect on Santana's guitar technique, which became increasingly complex and fluent. These outside influences had a profound effect when Carlos returned to the group, as he began infusing a jazzy new direction into the Latin-rock that initially established their reputation. Numerous personnel changes occurred during this era, but the melodic fluency of Carlos' guitar solos and the biting, sustained tone that is his signature remained central to the band's sound, earning the band legions of new fans as they continued to tour the world throughout the 1970s.
Following two warm-up gigs in Buffalo, NY and Passaic, NJ, the first leg of Santana's 1978 world tour lands at New York City's Palladium for a two-night stand. Two concerts were performed each night and the King Biscuit Flower Hour recorded all four performances, capturing one of the most fascinating and less documented eras of the band. The early show on the second night of this memorable run kicks off with a double dose of newer material in the form of the African influenced "Zulu" and "Jugando," setting the stage for things to come. With the soulful lead vocals of Greg Walker, they next tackle one of the group's most popular hits, the inspired pairing of Peter Green's bluesy "Black Magic Woman" with Gabor Szabo's spicy "Gypsy Queen." A highly energized "Dance Sister Dance" is up next, followed by one of the loveliest instrumentals in the Santana cannon, "Europa." The percussion-heavy instrumental "Batuka" leads directly into another early hit, "No One To Depend On," before they engage in one of the most searing performances of the set, "Incident At Neshabur."
Changing up the mood, Walker next delivers a standout vocal performance on the infectious "I'll Be Waiting," which evokes the groove of the Spinners classic, "I'll Be Around," and is one of the most soulful performances of the night. Walker's vocals are outstanding throughout the set and he continues with a strong reading of "Evil Ways," much to the delight of old-style Santana fans. An early reading of the title track to Santana's 1979 album Marathon follows, before Walker returns to belt out the group's remake of the Zombies' "She's Not There."
Vocal numbers aside, the majority of this performance focuses on the incredible instrumental dexterity of the group. Thanks to the phenomenal quality of these recordings, every nuance can be clearly heard on sizzling versions of "Soul Sacrifice," the aforementioned "Incident At Neshabur," and "Toussaint L'Overture," representing the standout instrumentals from the first three Santana albums.
Throughout this set, the polyrhythmic fury of percussionists Pereza, Rekow, and Escoveda weave into the propulsive rhythm section of Margen and Lear to create the most exciting and relentlessly active bottom end of any band in existence at the time. These musicians lay the foundation over which Carlos Santana and Tom Coster can soar.
Unlike most groups that save their heavy hitters for last, here Santana explores some less familiar material to close the set. This daring move pays off as the audience is treated to the most introspective sequence of the set, featuring a preview of "Oneness," which would surface the following year (on the Oneness, Silver Dreams - Golden Reality album) as well as a rare live reading of "Transcendence," before introducing the musicians and leaving the stage. Carlos Santana's guitar style is always quite penetrating, but in the context of these songs is even more so. "Transcendence" also serves as a perfect farewell, leaving the audience ecstatic and demanding more. Santana obliges with an equally introspective, but more familiar song for the encore. "Samba Pa Ti," one of the loveliest compositions in Santana's vast catalogue, and a highlight of the Abraxas album, provides a gorgeous finale with its own thought-provoking style. Santana and Coster both deliver extended solos over the percolating groove, bringing the third show of this extraordinary run to a very impressive close.