Monday, August 07, 2006

Santana; a sound of his own

Like B.B. King, Carlos Santana is one of a handful of guitarists who have a sound so readily recognizable it has become a timeless style all its own. Performing before a near-capacity crowd at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on Monday night, July 31, 2006, the legendary guitarist led his nine-member troupe on a 2-1/2-hour journey that reached artistic highs even while making some missteps. Before Santana was catapulted back into the spotlight with the success of his 1999 album “Supernatural,” he was best known by fans for his distinctive guitar work and his band’s puercussion-heavy jams. But with that release, and the similarly-formatted followups(“Shaman” and “All That I Am”) boasting well-known guests such as Rob Thomas, Dave Matthews and Los Lonely Boys, Santana has also become a hitmaker. Over the course of his concert on what should have been a beautiful night under the stars (I barely survived all the cigarette smoke engulfing me from every which way...), the 59-year-old guitarist juggled those two sides of his career effectively. There were extended jams where he traded solos with wonderful organ player ChesterThompson and several other members of his band, and he mixed up the set list to reflect flamenco, blues andLatin rock genres he has explored since forming his first group 40 years ago. His fiery and virtuoso guitar work, often delivered amidst a backdrop of horns, congas, timbales and the driving work of drummer Dennis Chambers usually was on the mark. Santana’s guitar work was great throughout the night, but the ensemble at large scored best with material that broke up the extended jams and solos that frequently slowed the momentum of the show. Indeed, along drum solo delivered during the early part of the encore actually proved to be the perfect incentive formany concertgoers to beat the traffic and call it anight. So when Santana and company performed relatively faithful versions of hits such as “Smooth” and the classic “Black Magic Woman,” it actually swept the audience back into the show, getting many on their feet to dance and bring a necessary ingredient to Santana’s pleasing mix. “No One to Depend On” was particularly effective in fusing the best musical and vocal elements that define the Santana sound. Singer Andy Vargas was an energetic and strong-voiced singer throughout the night, while trombone player JeffCressman’s work was particularly strong. All eight songs in Anthony Hamilton’s eight-song set were played well and the Charlotte, North Carolina native delivered serviceable R&B with the help of a strong six-man band and three female backing vocalists. But with the exception of a rousing “Chyna Black,” there was predictability to the sound and the set ultimately didn't catch fire.

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