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
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. Carlos Santana also began actively pursuing projects outside the group. Drawing heavily from Miles Davis and the jazz-fusion scene developing 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 Santana's guitar solos and the biting, sustained tone that is his signature remained central to the band's sound, earning them legions of new fans in the process.
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, capturing one of the most fascinating and less documented eras of the band, recorded all four performances.
The late show on the first night of this run kicks off with a double dose of material from the 1976 Amigos album, first with the high energy opener "Dance Sister Dance," followed by one of the loveliest and most penetrating instrumentals in the Santana cannon, "Europa." With the soulful lead vocals of Greg Walker, they tackle several of the group's most popular hits, including "Black Magic Woman," "No One To Depend On," and the newest hit at the time, their remake of the Zombie's "She's Not There." Walker also delivers a standout performance on the undeniably 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.
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," "Incident At Neshabur" and "Toussaint L'Overture," which encapsulate the standout instrumentals from the first three albums, as well as more current material such as the African-influenced "Zulu/Jugando." 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 on which Carlos Santana and keyboard master, Tom Coster, can soar above.
Unlike most groups that save their biggest hits for the encore, here Santana delivers an encore primarily consisting of newer less familiar material. This daring move pays off as this audience is treated to some of the most introspective performances of the evening. Rare performances of "Gitano" and "Transcendence" are included, as well as a preview of "Oneness," which would surface the following year on Oneness: Silver Dreams Golden Reality. However, they do save a familiar composition for last. The classic Abraxas track, "Samba Pa Ti," gets a nearly 12-minute treatment here. This is a beautiful performance that brings out some of the most penetrating and emotional playing of the evening. If one listens closely near the very end, Carlos quotes the lovely bridge of The Jackson 5's "Never Can Say Goodbye" which provides one last spine tingling moment to close an extraordinary performance.