Carlos Santana was born in Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco, Mexico. There he learned to play the violin at age five and the guitar at age eight under the tutelage of his father, a mariachi musician. The family moved to Tijuana, Mexico, and then San Francisco, California, and Santana became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1965. After several years working as a dishwasher in a diner and busking for spare change, Santana decided to become a full-time guitarist. In 1966, he formed the Santana Blues Band with fellow street musicians. Pioneering a blend of Latin-infused rock with jazz, blues, salsa and African rhythms, the band (which then adopted their frontman’s name, Santana) gained a following on the San Francisco club circuit. The band’s early success was capped at the Woodstock music festival in 1969. Since then, Santana has sold over 100 million records, has won 10 Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1998. The band’s most recent album is the Spanish language Corazon, released on May 6, 2014. Carlos Santana currently lives in Las Vegas.
Headlining the Forest Hills Stadium, Santana performed a two-hour set of the band’s signature Latin rock. The evening opened with a video montage showing a younger Carlos’ performance at Woodstock as the current lineup took the stage and launched into “Soul Sacrifice,” the Santana song that appeared in the Woodstock film and soundtrack album. Santana’s two current lead vocalists, Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay, came onstage and sang newer songs and covers. From the beginning, however, the music was all about Carlos’ uncanny guitar work and its trademark percussive backdrop. Whether this backdrop was informed by African rhythms, salsa, samba, cha-cha or hard rock, it was advanced by Santana’s guitar solos, richly fluid and played with such clarity that they sounded lyrical, even when they lasted over five minutes. About a half hour into the set, the mostly-silent Carlos introduced his son, Salvatore Santana, and the younger Santana came out to sing three urban pop originals as the elder Santana played backup.
Overall, the bulk of the material may have been new to the audience but, as many of the songs were dominated by extended instrumental jams, it hardly mattered what song was being performed. “Smooth” closed the regular set, and the encores began with older songs “Black Magic Woman” and “Oye Como Va” accompanied by more video highlights of Santana’s career. Nearly 50 years in music, Santana live remains a top jam band.
Visit Santana at www.santana.com.