Review: Santana’s guitar wails with love at Matthew Knight Arena
Carlos Santana’s Divination Tour proves that the suave guitarist holds just as much mastery over his instrument as he did nearly half a century ago at his grand debut: the 1969 Woodstock music festival. Since the notorious festival, Santana has gone on to win numerous awards and receive prestigious accolades. But the purpose of Santana’s Divination Tour, which stopped at Matthew Knight Arena Friday night, isn’t a celebration of the group’s past, it’s about promoting peace and love while marveling at Santana’s world-class talent.
Santana’s band took the stage wearing all white. Ray Greene and Andy Vargas were the primary vocalizers, David Mathews on the keys, Benny Rietveld on bass, Tommy Anthony on backup guitar, Karl Perazzo and Paoli Mejías on percussion, and on a grand drumset, Carlos’ wife and distinguished musician, Cindy Blackman Santana.
Visually, the show harkened back to Santana’s Woodstock days: marryings of fluorescent lights, strong oranges, striking red and deep blues. On a large LED display, they had psychedelic imagery, photos of Santana’s past performances and allusions to peace and inclusion. The lighting danced to the beat of the drums and was as ever-shifting as Santana’s electric wailing on guitar.
Santana happily perused his past catalog. For every big hit that they played — “Black Magic Woman,” “Oye Como Va,” “Maria Maria,” “Smooth” — there were deep cuts that are often overlooked — “Europa” and “Abatina” for example. But for the show’s purpose, the lines between songs were blurred for the most part. The musical concern was not to play old tracks for the sake of the revisit but to indulge in Santana, the 20th greatest guitarist of all time, according to Rolling Stone.
Santana’s leading guitar would cut right through each song’s movements effortlessly and with the utmost coolness. The legendary guitarist would have looked amazing up there even if he was playing the air guitar. Most studio musicians aspire their entire lives to bust out a solo like the ones Santana was shrugging off over and over. And with a nifty system of guitar pedals at his disposal, Santana’s weapon undertook the guises of the traditional rock solo, a slow noir-type drag and Latin-focused shreds.
Along with his wall of brilliant scales and staccatos, Santana dedicated a prudent two minutes near the beginning of his show to play a rendition of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” The homage was tasteful and contributed to the tour’s underlying themes of love and peace.
Santana addressed the crowd on multiple occasions throughout the show. He name-dropped his influences: Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, John Lennon and Sly and the Family Stone. He said that there was a growing fear being cultivated in today’s society, and attributed it to “DDT,” which stands for “Dumb Donald Trump.” Then, after declining an attendees request to run for president in the next election, he said, “If I was running this thing, there wouldn’t be stupid shit everywhere, it would be equality, fairness and justice for everyone.”
Near the show’s end, Santana also took one of the audience member’s phone and recorded a video of the stage and his performers. One of the band’s final songs was a rendition of “Love, Peace and Happiness” off his latest album, “Power of Peace,” in which he collaborated with the Isley Brothers. After showing his appreciation for the Eugene crowd, Santana humbly left the stage, having served everyone in attendance their fill of world-class guitar.
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