Santana Concert Review

By Jim Anaple

Santana Concert: September 21, 2011 at Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, California

The show opens with the band on stage minus Carlos Santana. A video screen on either side of the stage and in the middle of the stage above one of the three drummers shows Carlos making his way to the stage by weaving his way through back stage doors. This video was obviously shot earlier because the video is during the day and the band took the stage about 8:30pm. The same video is likely used for every show. Carlos takes the stage with his guitar and every member of the band plays their own thing. It was like a sound-check, just noise, total distortion. Maybe it’s art if you’re seeing some bands, but I highly doubt that many longtime Santana fans really enjoyed this. It was actually annoying. It didn’t stop there. The band went right into a rap version of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” as the two lead singers, Anthony Vargas and Tony Lyndsay, take the stage and are singing, actually rapping, together at opposite ends of the stage. It’s not unfair to say that the first 10 minutes of the show are a waste.

Just when you thought it was going to be a long show, the band goes into “Black Magic Woman” and then “Oye Como Va,” and the band – along with Vargas and Lyndsay – nail these songs perfectly. This is what Santana fans came to see. Soon, the band is into a definite highlight of the night with “Maria Maria,” which is from the 1999 Supernatural CD. The band made many referrals to this album throughout the night as well as its follow up, Shaman which features the already classic “Smooth” which included Rob Thomas on vocals on the CD. “Smooth” was an encore and while musically it was intact, neither Vargas nor Lyndsay could come close to matching Thomas’ vocals.

On about three occasions, Carlos provided his influential opinions which included mostly the philosophies of drawing from one’s energies and staying away from negative energies. One segment in particular went on for about four minutes. There was practically silence in the crowd, aside from some laughter. The person I was with said they were waiting for Tony Robbins to come out. Carlos went so far as to say that President Obama and The Pope aren’t going to save you, only you can save you.

The remainder of the show included a lot of jamming, and five minute songs were often turned into ten minutes songs or longer. While the jamming was cool at some points, the crowd seemed to get bored with it. These jam sessions also took up a lot of show time that resulted in the omission of a lot of tunes that would have been great to hear. Noticeably missing songs included “She’s Not There,” “No One to Depend On,” and “Everybody’s Everything.” Also missing were some successful songs from the late ’70s and early ’80s such “Hold On,” “Winning” and FM radio staples of “Open Invitation” and “All I Ever Wanted.”

Aside from Vargas and Lyndsay on vocals, the group consisted of three drummers including Carlos’ new bride, Cindy Blackman, and long-time drummer Dennis Chambers. Both drummers got their solos. Blackman’s was longer and Chambers’ solo was during the encore. The band also included guitarist Tommy Anthony, bassist Benny Rietveld, as well as keyboards, horns and other percussions.

The sound quality was very good, aside for the opening 10 minutes, and loud. Unless you’re huge Santana fan, the cheap seats would work out great for you. The show lasted about two hours and 45 minutes with one encore.

Side note: Opening was Michael Frante and Spearhead who put on a spirited 45 minute opening set. They are worth seeing. For this concert, fans who purchased lawn seats were asked to trade their tickets in for pavilion seats so that the crowd would be closer together in this large amphitheatre. The lawn was closed completely and most seats were filled.

Santana’s tour continues through November 2011 with remaining dates mostly including California venues before ending in Las Vegas.