Road Blog – Santana: The Surprise Factor (San Diego 9/30/08)

Before every concert, Carlos Santana prepares a song list that is distributed to each member of the band. That list is a reflection of various elements and one of the most important of these is whim. Yes, sometimes Carlos decides to play a particular song simply because he’s in that kind of mood, or, not unusually, because someone during the day has suggested or asked for it.

To be sure, there are other considerations. As one might expect, there are certain must-play songs-e.g. Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen”, “Oye Como Va”,”Smooth”, and “Maria Maria”et al-whose absence might well provoke a minor revolt at the very least from hardcore Santana fans. And then there are some songs that are just beginning to develop and whose potential excites both Carlos and the band.

Not to be forgotten is the fact that chief chef Santana often likes to have a surprise on the evening menu just to keep the band, and himself, from getting too complacent or predictable.
So far the present Live Your Light Tour has found Santana revisiting past tour favorites such as “Sacalo”[which features a sax solo from Salvador Santana band saxophonist Jose”Crunchy”Espinosa], “Brotherhood” a staple of the1980s and 1990s, and “Everybody’s Everything” now including fiery solo outings from rhythm guitarist Tommy Anthony.
“Curacion” has proved to be a crowd favorite and a nice change-of-pace from some of the more outgoing numbers. “Umi Says” has been combined with “Sunshine Day” to provide feature spots for vocalists Tony Lindsay and Andy Vargas-both of whom recently celebrated birthdays on consecutive days, incidentally.

Undoubtedly the song that has provoked the most questions has been “Marco Polo”, a Japanese folklike instrumental that Carlos has taken a powerful liking to. Much like some past duo pieces -e.g. “Goodness and Mercy”, “Blues For Salvador”, and  “Wings of Grace”-, “Marco Polo” is a center-stage tour de force for Carlos Santana and keyboardist Chester Thompson with the rest of the band joining in as the musical magic unfolds.

And just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about Santana, Carlos introduces a new kind of country & western, reggae, and church song, “Peace, Light, Love, Joy”, with Tommy Anthony taking the lead vocal. Santana and country & western? Go figure, but then go listen. If you’re anything like the thousands who’ve heard it since its initial outing in Texas, you’ll like it.
In a few hours the band will take the stage in Chula Vista, Ca. [just outside of San Diego].  Who knows what’s on tonight’s song list? Maybe like last night, Carlos will surprise the band by going into a song-i.e. “Europa”-that isn’t even on the song list.
Stay tuned.

Hal Miller
San Diego