Being 23, I like Santana, but I’m not invested in his music like so much of the older generation. I’m a fan of “Smooth,” (holla @ my boy Rob Thomas); that song he did with Michelle Branch was good for its time (“The Game of Love”); I (ironically) love anything Chad Kroeger does, so “Into the Night” was lovely; and obviously everyone gets down to “Oye Coma Va,” but that was the extent of my Santana knowledge.
I knew the legacy of Santana, but I’d never really seen it in action.
Walking into the venue, there was a slideshow going on onstage of 60s-era images, mostly from Woodstock. One of them was of a topless woman, so you could call me a fan. It set the stage (pun intended) for what to expect throughout the show: fun…and rebellion.
The show in and of itself was truly indescribable; Santana and his band came out with incredible energy, and it never ceased. Every song was upbeat, musically articulate, and powerful, and every musician he chose for his band was at least as talented as Santana himself. The trombone player was especially impressive: he somehow sounded like a full horn section with only one instrument.
The high point for me was when, about one-third of the way into the show, Santana broke the ongoing stream of music for the first time to speak. He intoned that Dennis Edwards, the lead singer of The Temptations, a Motown-era group, had passed away earlier that day, and such, Santana and company would be playing an unrehearsed tribute.
They began in on “Papa was a Rolling Stone,” and, to the untrained ear especially, it was painfully un-obvious that they hadn’t rehearsed it. While Santana was giving timing clues during the song, everything sounded almost flawless. The harmonies between the vocalists were the best — I thought — of the entire show. That’s astounding to me. To have that kind of talent is truly remarkable.
Santana wrapped up the 2.5 hour show with a monologue on self-worth and a song about war and harmony, bookending the original slideshow of Woodstock images nicely. I actually felt like I was in the 60s for a second — or, at least, recognized the energy of the time and that we’re at a similar crossroads in today’s society. Apparently, so did Santana.
What really made me a Santana fan, though, was how he treated the musicians he was playing with. There were no specific actions that indicated this, but it was apparent how much reverence he has for them. He gave each a moment in the spotlight, which is standard for live performances, but the way he did it indicated a partnership rather than a dictatorship. He wasn’t even onstage when the show ended, but humbly waved goodbye to the audience while the other band members wrapped up the show. He obviously still enjoys playing, but it seems he’s happy with his status in life and wanted to give his less-famous counterparts their time in the sun. Mutual respect is rad.
Overall, Carlos Santana seems like a wonderful person and a wonderful musician, and we should all do the same drugs as him if that’s how they leave you.