JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

September 16, 2015
House of Blues - Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV USA
Review by Dave Gray
Photos by Dave Gray


Heart Full Of Latin Soul

"Welcome to our home," so said Carlos Santana marking the beginning of his most recent residency at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. It's been 6 months since his last visit here, and this current group of dates coincides with Mexican Independence Day. While there were Latin/Mexican/Chicano groups all over this crazy town, this man is the Godfather of Latin music in America. His infectious style of blending the rhythms of Mexico and Central America with American rock bridges age groups and ethnicities. It's a helluva show.

Spanning a career of almost fifty years, Santana broke onto the national scene as a twenty-one year old at Woodstock with a band consisting of his friends and fellow San Francisco street musicians. This night had that same feel. It was part a night of the hits and part jam session with a group of his buddies. No song sounded like a recording, but all of them during his 2 hour plus show gave out a great vibe. An 11 piece group featured 2 vocalists, 3 percussionists, a 2-piece horn section, and filled out with piano, guitars and bass. Everyone took their turn in the spotlight... Santana shares and enjoys his band's success.

Santana's fiery guitar playing is legendary... emotional... from the heart. On this night, the sixty-eight year old, played great solos and some not so great. In his words, "he likes to let the hamster out of the cage," stretching his chops as far as he can go. Most work, a rare few don't. But no one cares at this type of intimate venue... 1500 friends at a great show.

The band was driven by the 3 percussionists all night. Timbales and congas make the Santana sound…and these guys rocked! The 2 male vocalists were extraordinary in their ability to blend, and even though both took turn as lead singers, neither tried to out-perform the other. They sang as one. The other instrumentalists traded licks at every turn with their leader. They were very good in their own right, but never taking the spotlight away from him.

He played all the favorites as the title of this current show implies. A highlight of the night came with his dedication of "Maria Maria" to his sister who attended the show on this opening night. Playing both the acoustic and electric parts of this tune, Santana was great. The crowd got into it from the opening notes, jumping from their seats to dance in whatever style they felt.

The show ended with "Smooth" and 2 encores, "Black Magic Woman" and "Oye Como Va." By that time, the entire venue was on their feet, the twenty year olds and the seventy year olds... swaying and dancing to that style that only he can deliver.