Carlos Santana - Live at The Joint

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As fortune would have it, the day after it was announced I read that Carlos Santana would be taking up residency at the recently refitted "The Joint" concert venue located within the Hard Rock Hotel.  As concerts come and go in Vegas, this was an unusual announcement as he would be playing for about 30 dates, and, most importantly, while we were in town.

Aside from the opportunity to see a good show, the other surprising planetary alignment came from none other than (the cursed and to be lambasted later...) Ticketmaster, which gave us front row balcony tickets, within a couple seats of dead center stage.  I again turn to my woeful iPhone camera for an image (because I can't call it a picture).

santana at the joint

To be fair to the camera's ineptness, the stage usually carried with it a constant movement of light, and I only tried twice... I was too busy watching the show.  The view was better than this image appears.

Santana is one of those artists who you either like or you don't.  Throughout almost every song, the Latin percussion dominates the rhythms, and it was probably an equal split between songs sung in English and Spanish. Most important, of course, was the sound of Santana's distinctive guitar.

The venue was fantastic...not too large, not too small (around 1400 capacity), with excellent acoustics.  Sound clarity wasn't perfect, but I think this was due to so many musiciansSupernatural Santana competing for aural space - drummer, two percussionists, bassist, acoustic guitar, keyboards, two singers,  trumpeter, trombonist (who played an excellent solo), plus Santana.

The staging was excellent, with live feeds on side monitors and a mix of video of Santana's past with live action on the screen behind the stage.  Although celebrating a 10 year anniversary re-release of his mega-hit album Supernatural, (think "Smooth" and "Put Your Lights On"), the set covered songs both very familiar ("Evil Ways, "Black Magic Woman," "Oye Como Va," "Soul Sacrifice") and many that were likely familiar to more loyal fans.

The show wasn't perfect, though.  This was the third night of his stint in Las Vegas, and it's probably unusual playing the same venue more than once before moving on.

That said, the two singers, both likely in their 20's, struggled at times to get the floor audience off their seats and participate.  They did at times, but when prices push $200 for those same seats, both the age and the desire of most purchasers is to use them.

Also, it took Santana a little while to warm up.  At 61, he's forgiven, but there were a fair number of notes that he's played far better in the past, particularly in the first half of the show.

My favorite of the songs was an instrumental called "Curacion: Sunlight on Water" where he sat and just played with minimal accompaniment.  The biggest disappointment was the absence of his cover of "She's Not There," a song he's scorched many times.

But to go to a Santana show is not all about the music.  Whereas many artists say very little to the audience, some probably think that Santana talks too much.  I saw him in the mid '90's, where he seemed stuck in the peace and love movement - aka, a stoner.  Listening to him now, though, his message has been refined to a clearer pursuit of spirituality and a gratitude for the gifts that God provides, which he openly invites the audience to share.

Inspiration for any artist comes from somewhere, and it's very clear where Santana draws his from.  In fear of copyright violation, I've linked rather than included some excellent photos of the previous concerts at The Joint which can be seen by clicking HERE and HERE.  The staging is awesome, and you can see the emotion and inspiration in his face that accompanies his music.

Also below are two videos from the night I attended, both of which are visually impaired but give a good sense of the evening.

A great show.

 

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