Santana, Michael Franti & Spearhead Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion September 10, 2011
Timeless. Classic. Legend. OG - all classifications that tend to be distributed loosely in the music industry these days. Yet for Carlos Santana, the skinny Mexican kid who played at Woodstock and has since accumulated 10 Grammy Awards and several platinum albums, classifying him as anything less would be incongruous. (That vocabulary word-of-the-day calendar is really paying off!)
On a steamy yet breezy Saturday night in The Woodlands, a diverse crowd filed into the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion to witness the spiritual experience that is a Santana concert. Older rock and roll fans sat on the lawn next to low-riders, Harley owners and dread-locked hippies.
Everyone seemed to be in a good mood, aided by second-hand incense smoke - that was incense, right? - and booze. For $35, you can now buy a chilled bottle of White Zinfandel, delivered in a bucket of ice with a stack of plastic cups. Classy!
The night opened up with Michael Franti and Spearhead. You may have heard his song "Say Hey (I Love You)" in a TV commercial for Corona Light beer. Some of his fans were apparently disappointed that his music was used in such a capitalist fashion, given that Franti is a barefoot vegan whose main focus leans towards supporting world peace initiatives and other social issues.
The early crowd was definitely into the reggae-rock dance party that Franti was throwing onstage, and the beach balls that were thrown from it.
As Aftermath took a breather on the picnic tables between the stage and the beer vendors, we met a nice couple named Ernest and Yolanda Vasquez from Pearland. Ernest told us that he is a huge Santana fan, and was supposed to go to Woodstock back in '69, but couldn't raise enough cash to get to from his home in Gary, Indiana, to the festival in New York.
"Money was tough back then, just like it is now" he said. But Sanchez was determined not to let this chance to see Santana slip away, and told us he does remember catching a show for a young singer by the name of Michael Jackson that same year.
The lights dimmed and the stage shone in a calming blue light as the New Santana Band took the stage. The familiar opening organ notes to "Black Magic Woman" drove the crowd to a lively applause, and Carlos walked out from behind the drummer wearing a Panama hat and dark shades.
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His old fingers still possess the same speed and determination to pluck and strum the music that elevates him as one of the greatest guitar players of all time. He bookended the opening contribution with "Gypsy Queen" and "Oye Como Va."
Carlos addressed the crowd with "Hola Houston! We missed you, esse!" The last time Santana was scheduled to perform at The Woodlands, a little storm by the name of Hurricane Ike forced the show to be cancelled.
He thanked the crowd for all the love and energy, and dedicated the next song, "Maria, Maria," to all the ladies in the audience. "When the females are happy, everything is happening!" he said. "If they are not happy, neither Obama, nor the Pope, not even Oprah can help you!"
He introduced his new wife to all of us. Her name is Cindy Blackman, an accomplished drummer and musician in her own right. She dove into a raging drum solo and completely blew us away. The crowd was on their feet, as they were most of the night, with dancing in the aisles and hands in the air.
Santana is known as a master of a variety of genres, and Saturday he touched on rock, reggae, samba, guajira, mambo and even a bit of hip-hop. His latest album is called Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classic of All Time. On it, he covers The Beatles, Def Leppard, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC and more with unrivaled energy and finesse.
The Santana Experience is as awesome as ever.
Personal Bias: This is my 10th time to catch Santana in concert, including a trip to Madison Square Garden, The Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, and the New Orleans Jazz Festival.
The Crowd: Old and young, all music lovers.
Overheard in the Crowd: "This is the best concert I've ever been to!"
Random Notebook Dump: I really dislike driving up to The Woodlands for concerts, but the sound and lighting is always stellar and the shows are awesome, so it's always worth the trip.
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SANTANA SET LIST
Spark of the Divine, Sun Ra Back in Black Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen Oye Como Va Maria, Maria Foo Foo Corazon Espinado/Guajira Jingo Samba Pa Ti Africa In your Veins (feat. Michael Franti) Rocking After Midnight Evil Ways/A Love Supreme Sunshine of Your Love Smooth/Dame Tu Amor Soul Sacrifice Bridegroom/Into The Night Love, Peace, & Happiness/Freedom