He is the man with the golden fingers, the zen master of soul sacrificing chords that ruminate through the very aura of the human spirit. He hypnotized Woodstock and seduced us with a Supernatural
rebirth. And he has never failed to charm us with his cosmic rainbow of notes.
Although his recent residency at the House Of Blues inside the Vegas casino Mandalay Bay was billed as an Intimate Evening With Carlos Santana, which conjured up an image of a meditating Chicano guru, legs crossed in a melodic guitar prayer, he was instead in full swing with a pepped-up band, including horns, two vocalists and a special appearance by Cream’s Jack Bruce. Carlos may speak quietly but he plays with a loud voice.
Santana has always loved having a lot of musicians on stage with him and at 65, this has not changed as his band included longtime bass player and musical director Benny Rietveld, drummer Dennis Chambers, rhythm guitarist Tommy Anthony, Dave Matthews on keys, Karl Perazzo on timbales, Bill Ortiz on trumpet, Jeff Cressman on trombone and Raul Rekow on congas; Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay both handled lead vocal duties. But the beauty of the show is of course the bandleader’s humble sensuality on guitar.
“Black Magic Woman” and “Incident At Neshabur” were almost hypnotical experiences, while “Foo Foo” had everyone on their feet jumping to the rhythm. “Jingo” and “Batuka” came alive with hip moving extravaganzas that were only outdone by the feeding frenzy audience love for “Oye Como Va.” On “Corazon Espinado,” I have never heard a bass solo cheered so loudly, followed by Chambers’ power drum solo. He slowed down, sped up, drank Gatorade, wiped off sweat, blew bubbles, then sped back up all while never missing a beat. The audience loved him.
A wonderful surprise for everyone attending on this particular night was the appearance of Jack Bruce on “Sunshine Of Your Love” and “Spoonful.” Who says you get boring as you grow older? With the slow and sexy throb of his bass, Bruce brought the house down with the latter tune, conjuring up the mojo of how the old bluessmen intended the song to be played.
Santana may be a symbol of rhythm and groove but spirituality is what makes him whole. Silencing his guitar for the only time during his show, he let his voice speak for his heart amidst “A Love Supreme.” He wanted to share with everyone his “words that could serve – family, energy, acceptance, happiness.” Too many, he reminded, were involved in “stupid shit” that “they wear proudly” and “brag about it.” They have lost their way in a world gone mad and value things that deflate the soul. “I am meaningful, I am made of something … It is your choice to make for the rest of your life.”
Carlos could have ended on this note, he could have ended with Jack Bruce, but he had something else up his sleeve to say goodnight: a powerful “Soul Sacrifice/ToussiantL’Overture.” It was definitely something to be experienced.