The Runner – Online Edition: August 30, 2011
Carlos Santana is just about the only musician who can make a cover song better than the original.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer brought his band, Santana, to Rogers Arena on Saturday night, touring on his 2010 cover album, Guitar Heaven. Not to fret, he didn’t skip the classic instrumentals that made him a Latin legend.
We want to direct all that energy to the females.
The opening act, Michael Franti & Spearhead, brought a swirling positive energy and a message of peace through an amalgam of hip-hop, jazz, funk and folk. They worked the crowd to their feet with such smile-provoking songs as “Everyone Deserves Music,” “The Sound of Sunshine” and “Say Hey (I Love You).”
Several times, Franti came out to sing and dance with fans in the lower bowl, creating and interactive and intimate atmosphere, even for those who couldn’t afford floor seats.
The crowd was warmed up by the time Santana took the stage with the Latin-infused “Spark of the Divine” and “Sun Ra.” Then the nearly tore down the stage with a rap-rock rendition of AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” splitting the lyrics between vocalists Tony Lindsay and Andy Vargas.
Spark of the Divine
Going back 40 years, the band performed “Singing Wins, Crying Breasts” and the Fleetwood Mac-written, Santana-perfected “Black Magic Woman,” which had every belly-dancing gypsy queen swaying their hips through Tito Puente’s bongo-beating “Oye Como Va.”
Carlos Santana clearly noticed the seductive responses of the women in the crowd and took a moment to talk about the ambience in the arena.
“We want to direct all that energy to the females,” he said, moving into the slow and sensual “Maria Maria” that emphasized the horns section in the chorus.
They followed that with the upbeat “Foo Foo,” “Corazón Espinado,” and “Jingo” bringing out the maracas and congas to get that Latin sound from the stage to the stands.
After “Europa” and a combination of “Evil Ways” with “A Love Supreme,” Santana covered Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” which has become a nightly standard in recent setlists. To top that, he performed the Grammy Award-winning “Smooth” in all of his stylish glory, picking the notes with both calculation and ease.
For the encore, footage of Santana performing from Woodstock 1969 appeared on a screen as the band returned to play “Soul Sacrifice,” “Bridegroom” and “Into the Night” (sans Chad Kroeger of Nickelback).
Rather than play covers from his latest album, Santana worked in a few different songs by the same artists. Instead of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm,” they did the first verse of “Rock and Roll” and a solo from “Light my Fire,” respectively. Keyboardist Dave Mathews was no Ray Manzarek, but he was spot on with the right notes.
They closed the night with the joyous songs “Love, Peace & Happiness” and “Freedom,” and left to a standing ovation. While there were a few recent hits like “The Game of Love” and “Why Don’t You & I” were left out, they didn’t take away from the soul-touching, spirit-lifting experience that Santana seems to bring wherever he goes.