Santana came through Boston’s Blue Hills Bank Pavilion for a sweltering performance that elicited a more enthusiastic response from his Baby Booming crowd than plenty of Millennial acts playing the same space did this summer.
Taking the stage to a video montage of Woodstock, the Summer of Love alum tore into “Soul Sacrifice,” an instrumental jam considered by many to be a highlight of the historic festival. Carlos Santana, arguably the single most recognizable Hispanic musician in American history, was accompanied by a band hosting keyboards, auxiliary guitar, bass, horns, a trio of drummers, and a pair of vocalists who hyped the crowd while the icon himself worked his way up and down the neck of his own Signature PRS guitar.
They say that 99% of a guitarists tone comes from his fingertips and a big part of what makes Santana the virtuoso that he is comes from a fluidity of his fretwork. Additionally, he manages to hit the strings with a pick, as well as his fingers, by toggling the pick between his fingers so he can vary between methods. As solid as the duel male vocalists were, their attempts to work the crowd felt weak and forced. While their audience was enthusiastic, something about encouraging people to clap for two hours gets old quick and they showcased a cheesy charisma that really made you wish Santana just did the singing on his own.
More than the vocalists, the biggest problem with the performance was the sound. From ten rows back and center, the mix sounded muddy and the guitar wasn’t loud enough. That said, when you walked to the back of the grounds near the beer stands, the mix sounded crystal clear. The venue isn’t known for being close to acoustically ideal but even compared to other performances this Summer, it sounded like the music was being blasted at us and not mixed for us.
The highlight of the night was “Evil Ways,” a Willie Bobo tune Santana has made his own. This was the part of the night where Santana and Co. stretched their legs out and really jammed. It was hard to pinpoint, but at some point during their improvisation, the group segued into John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” that featured a spacey, adlibbed monologue by the iconic guitarist who quoted Bob Marley’s command to, “emancipate yourself from mental slavery.”
While the sound could have been better and the band left a bit to be desired, the fact remains that Carlos Santana performed for an aging audience that stayed on their feet for over two hours. Santana is playing as tight as ever and as a performer, and giving the crowd what they paid for: classic songs they can sing and dance to accompanied by the elite playing of one of rock’s greatest guitarists.
Photos by Jennifer Childs