JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

September 10, 2011
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion - The Woodlands
The Woodlands, TX USA
Review by Kameron Holbrook
Photos by Jamie Miller

Santana - Santana, George Lopez

For three decades now, guitarist extraordinaire Carlos Santana has continued to make his presence known at the historic Red Rocks amphitheater, located on the outskirts of Denver in Morrison, Colorado. Recently, the facility inducted Mexican-American into their Hall of Fame that includes other iconic acts like The Grateful Dead, U2 and the Beatles.

This Labor Day weekend was dedicated to Carlos and his comedian pal George Lopez. Unlike most Red Rocks shows where the crowds are still streaming in when the opener takes the stage, this particular evening the venue was filled to capacity when Lopez took the stage at 7:30. For 90 minutes, the only thunder that was heard in the Colorado sky was the laughter rolling through the rock formations. There was no topic untouched, or color of skin spared. In fact, Lopez had no problem addressing the shutdown of his TBS late night talk show. He told fans not to feel sorry for him because he was now enjoying his new gig performing sold-out shows with the legendary Carlos Santana. It drew a hearty laugh from this knowledgeable Santana audience who were well aware this was the first time these two performers had ever appeared together. 

Lopez's comedy set was a great intro into the musical time capsule Carlos Santana was about to unleash on the audience. He started the trip with a lengthy, jazz infused instrumental, "Spark of the Divine". It got the crowd revved up when the opening chords to the AC/DC classic, "Back in Black" got the crowd on its feet. Santana's featured singer, Tony Lindsay, laid down the vocals to this song taken from the virtuoso's 2010 Guitar Heroes album. (Another album cut, "Sunshine of Your Love" also made the set list.) With the crowd clearly in his corner, Santana spun the time machine back a bit further to his 1970's masterpiece Abraxas. Carlos played "Singing Wings, Crying Beasts", "Black Magic Woman" and "Oye Como Va" to the utter delight of the crowd. And let me say, the music sounded beautiful this joyous summer evening.

One interesting moment during the show, and there were many to choose from, was the introduction of the 64-year old guitarist's wife, Cindy Blackman, during the song "Europa." Her solo performance on drums was pretty darn amazing. Her musicianship was so impressive it prompted some around me to remark that the considerably younger Ms. Blackman-Santana even outplayed the regular drummer.

The voices behind Santana's songs have changed many times over the years, but the guitar playing has always remained, for lack of a better word, ‘smooth.' The nimble fingers of this elder purist gracefully slid over the guitar strings to pluck memorable licks spanning four decades, and some created just last year. Clearly a master of his craft, it was easy to get lost in the magnificent sounds his guitar was creating.

The Grammy award winning artist two and a half hour performance served notice as to why this man was inducted into the venue's Hall of Fame. Between songs, Santana shared his feelings about how special it was to be back at Red Rocks as well as giving some of his insights about life in general. There's no doubt he was sincere when preaching the value of education over war and violence. When he delivered his thoughts on loving one another and enjoying life for what it is, you just knew this man was speaking from the heart. Tonight, there was a little bit of everything for the near capacity crowd. And we were all richer for the experience.