Still Standing

Santana, with Anthony Hamilton

At the Santa Barbara Bowl, Tuesday, August
1.

Reviewed by Charles Donelan

Santana2.jpgMany stars like to let their bands warm
up the crowd before stepping into the spotlight, but that’s not
Carlos Santana’s way. Within moments of the opening notes last
Tuesday, Santana was front and center, blazing away at one of his
most joyous and energetic early hits, “Jingo.” Clad in a red and
black plaid flannel shirt, dark sunglasses, and a black knit cap,
Santana pounced on the audience immediately and never let up.
Behind him, a big screen kept even the people seated at the top of
the Bowl in close communion with the band and Santana’s inimitable
guitar, one of the world’s most recognizable instrumental
voices.

Other than the video projection, the stage set was minimal. Band
members did not wear stage clothes, and, thanks to radio pick-ups,
the horn players did not have to stand behind microphones. Santana
showed great humility and a detailed knowledge of the Santa Barbara
Bowl with the first words out of his mouth: “We are deeply aware
that this is sacred ground. We can feel the presence of those who
have played here before — Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Ray
[Vaughn].” Appropriately, though, he did most of his talking
through “Santana II,” the gorgeous striped electric guitar made in
his honor by master maker Paul Reed Smith. The set list encompassed
hits old and new, including a tremendous version of the Anthony
Hamilton collaboration “Twisted,” from Santana’s latest album. This
neo-soul singer appears to be capable of time travel — at least as
far as the 1970s. When he joined forces with Santana, Hamilton set
a gritty gospel fire on top of the band’s relentless,
percussion-heavy, Latin-tinged afro-funk. Santana said that
Hamilton was “truly anointed,” and thus “the total opposite of
George Bush, who can’t tell the power of love from the love of
power.” This last remark brought a righteous roar from the capacity
crowd.

Santana’s new material is as strong as the work on the
phenomenally successful Supernatural, and should earn him an even
larger and more devoted following than ever. On the eve of another
Fiesta, Santana’s unique blend of pop, funk, and Latin rhythms made
the Bowl into a perfect party, the sacred space we all wish that it
was every night we go there.

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