Carlos Santana turned sixty eight last week. Few days later he was at the London O2. I went to see him.
I drove to London that Saturday morning, left the car at my daughter’s and took the DLR to the O2. The new swish cable car they call the Emirates Air Line took me across the Thames. You can buy your tickets online and have the barcode on your mobile phone. A man dressed like an airline pilot scans it and lets you through. The view of London below me was breathtaking. The Thames Barrier was on one side and the great dome of the O2 glistened in the evening light on the other. The O2 square was buzzing. The music was deafening. Some danced and others sat in the sun sipping pints. The smell of roasting meat was in the air.
“Eat with Us” – Yalla Yalla Beirut Street Food invited in Yellow & Black. I did. A young woman in black brought me Samboussek Jibne – pastry filled with feta, helium and fresh mint and a huge plate of Lamb Shawarma – slices of marinated and roasted lamb with a salad of parsley, red oinions, red peppers and Lebanese sumac and crispy fried potatoes. “Are you Lebanese?” I asked her. She smiled and said “Italian.” I drank Lebanese Almaza beer. The meal was excellent, portions were huge and the cost was modest.
The arena was packed with ageing swingers. Posh folks, fenced off from others, drank Lanson. Vendors had beer on tap from backpacks and charged five pounds a pint. Others sold undrinkable rose, white and red wine in 18.75 cl. bottles for six pounds each. Lights flashed and drums rolled. The atmosphere was electric. Santana made the guitar sing. Newer songs were pleasing but the old favourites were magical. Men and women danced in the isles. Many sang with the singers.
Here’s a short clip from James Nelmes and another from uktopfan:
After the show, I took the Thames Clipper to London Bridge and a taxi to Islington. London was serene and quiet that night but music was still ringing in my ear. Maria and Black Magic Woman went all the way home with me.