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Santana - Down Under Live at Sydney's Hordern Pavilion
Umbrella Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 46 mins . E . PAL

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With the release of Santana: Supernatural Live on DVD just a few years ago receiving wide applause for capturing the essence of his music and performance on a fine fully featured DVD, I should have known better than to think this release would have been of his more recent 2003 Australian tour.

Instead, this captures his Australian Marathon tour back in 1979, played out at the Bogan Pavilion (sorry, I meant Horden Pavillion) in Sydney before a loud and appreciative crowd of people with bad haircuts and flared denim jeans.

If youíve been a long time fan of Carlos, then the DVD will be a nice trip back to his earlier work before he went solo, and will ring with familiarity, as there isnít a great divide between the old and the new with the sound still rooted in his Latin fusion of genres. Fans who jumped onboard around the time of his popular reincarnation with the likes of Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 wonít be as familiar with the tunes played out here, but take the time to get into them and you discover the underlying vein that has been the soul of his music for more years than he may care to remember.

The brief but energetic 46 minute set (not 55 mins as stated on slick) works its way through: Marathon, Well Alright, Europa, Open Invitation, Tales of Kilimanjaro, Black Magic Women/Gypsy Queen, You Know That I Love You, Lightning In The Sky, Sheís Not There and Evil Ways.

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You know how many modern live tour DVDs look stunning with pictures shot in HD for crisp detail and sumptuous colours? Well, this DVD has none of that. Admittedly, this was shot in í79, and there is even a handy screen before the show warning of the poor quality to come, so expectations going in canít be too high, can they? In a nutshell, much of the footage is noisy, has poor contrast, weak blacks, bleeding and tape dropouts and detail on par with VHS. There is a brief respite when they switch to one of the cameras situated front of stage, which manages to capture a clearer picture with vast improvements in everything mentioned above, but the switches amongst cameras just highlights how bad some of the other feeds really are. I canít fault the transfer though, as it seems theyíve done the best with the material given.

The audio has fared far better, and a scan of the credits reveals that it was recorded by 2MMM in Sydney for a live simulcast at the time. The original stereo has been mixed up to DD5.1, which while a nice thought, kind of serves to widen the chasm between the picture and sound quality further. Itís reasonably agreeable though, with only the slightest hint of a slightly over enthusiastic twiddling of the knobs in the rear channels. Otherwise, the dynamics sound a little crushed with guitar solos missing their highs and percussions coming off hollow. About par for the course then given the age. I would have liked them to have included the stereo mix though, which would have fattened the sound a little.

The Extra Material makes up a weak support act, with just a discography, a reproduction of parts of the original tour book and more Madman Propaganda for other music titles.

I guess it comes down to how much of a fan of Carlos Santana or Santana the band you are. If youíre just dabbling in music DVD, then there are far better titles to indulge in, but if youíre after something to relive the past and are willing to cop less than ideal quality source material, this is what youíll have to get used to. Fans can look beyond the flaws though and just revel in the Gold FM hits without the annoying ads.


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  •   And I quote...
    "Fans can look beyond the flaws though and just revel in the Gold FM hits without the annoying ads."
    - Vince Carrozza
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