Feat. Cindy Blackman
Smart Financial Centre
July 3, 2017
Trans·mog·ri·fy (v.): "To transform, especially in a surprising or magical manner."
From Abraxas to Moonflower, Supernatural to Shaman, guitar hero Carlos Santana certainly knows how to select and direct the titles and tones of his albums in an almost perfect manner. For as long as I've listened to music, I've known about the Mexican-American kid who played at Woodstock, wondrously mixing blues with Latin beats and percussion, making his axe's wail with beauty, pain, and heart.
As his Transmogrify Tour hit the stage at Sugar Land's Smart Financial Centre Monday night, the mood of the crowd shifted delightfully, embracing Carlos with a warm Texas welcome. Wearing his signature Panama hat with the bejeweled heart pendant on the front, he began the night with the energetic track "Toussaint L’Ouverture." It was a fast and loud beginning to a night with many furious highlights and only a few slow and low moments.
"Muchas gracias!" he said to the standing ovation from the Houston fans. "And also mucha tequila, and mucho marijuana!" Carlos continued to address the audience with positivity and his personal form of spirituality throughout the set, reassuring everyone that "You are significant and meaningful! You can create your own blessings and miracles!"
Yes, on the surface, Santana may seem strange. A result of a little too much acid, perhaps, or the THC in his blood, but the result is an almost cartoonish character based on love, good vibes, and peace. He's like the ultimate hippie who found the Fountain of Youth that has extended his career by a few decades. But the most important thing to realize is that this character is sincere, which makes his music that much more special.
The band didn't waste much time to get into a few favorites from their long list of classics. We heard "Maria, Maria," "Foo Foo," "Corazon Espinado," "Jingo" and "Evil Ways" within the first half of the 150-minute set. He then took another break to call out the "powers that be" (FBI, CIA, Hollywood) for promoting fear and spreading "that bullshit." He thanked Nikola Tesla for inventing the remote control that helps him turn off that negativity inside his home. "We should concentrate on bringing out the light from inside and sharing it with the world!" he added. I truly believe that if Carlos wasn't a successful musician, he'd probably be a successful paster, yogi, or cult leader. Personally, I'd definitely drink that Kool-Aid.
The second part of the show was much more of a rock and roll jam filled with solos and the band getting lost in the music. I sometimes wonder if the band or audience is having more fun. Monday it might have been equal, and that's just about as awesome as a concert should be. An amazing ballad gave the band and crowd a chance to catch their breath during the song "I Remember," written and sung by Cindy Blackman.
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I knew that she was an accomplished drummer and percussionist, but this was the first time I've ever heard her sing. As she stood at the microphone with the lights down low, she released one of the most delicate voices from her lean yet strong body. And she did so with her eyes closed most of the time, as if she would somehow lose her voice if she opened them. Her husband played the guitar with an equal delicate set of strokes, beaming with pride and love and joy for his wife. "All I ever really wanted.... was you!" she proclaimed as the song came to an end. Very emotional and extremely beautiful display of real love from the power couple. It was a joy to experience live. "She's perfect!" attested Carlos. "I love those freckles and that 'Fro!"
The night was primed for more hits, and that's what was served. "Samba Pa Ti" got me even more emotional, with the memories of past heartaches and heartbreaks flooding into my brain with every chord and sustained note. Then came "Black Magic Woman" and "Oye Como Va," two of the most amazing compositions and performances that will ever exist in the history of music. He even played a gold guitar during these tracks, which somehow validated their regal nature.
There was even a Carlos Santana version of "Deep In the Heart of Texas" played at the end, which was both humorous and fitting. Once again the Carlos Santana Band cut me deep, dissected my soul with rhythm, and provided an uplifting and, yes, spiritual experience that offered an escape from the negativity of the world. Music like Santana's gives me hope that one day love will finally trump hate for good and forever.