Santana Tour Blogs – Chicago (4/21/08)

Midway through the Spring 2008 Live Your Light Tour, the Santana Band is catching its collective breath in Chicago as it looks forward to the next stop of the tour in Omaha. It’s been quite a while since the band played Omaha and the locals had better brace themselves for a veritable music storm because Santana is Hot! Maybe it’s the mild and welcoming weather of Chicago following on the heels of the un-springlike conditions of the Canadian cities the band visited, or maybe it’s simply the fact that the band’s momentum after a fabulous Chicago show is at its peak, but whatever the reason, Santana is leaving audiences almost stunned at their intensity and the sheer virtuosity of the performances.

As always, Carlos Santana continues to surprise- not just the audiences but also the band, itself. At the Minneapolis concert in the middle of a solo segment, he went into “Misty” [Yes, that “Misty”!]. Chester Thompson, Benny Rietveld, and Dennis Chambers, all three being virtual music encyclopedias, skipped nary a beat and backed him beautifully.

During that same concert, Carlos and trumpeter Bill Ortiz played the John Coltrane ballad “Naima”, perhaps another Santana first.

Recent concertgoers have been puzzling over the new music they’ve been hearing immediately after the encore performance of “Soul Sacrifice”. This musical postscript has the tentative title of “Rofo Rofo” and was inspired by a recording by Nigerian saxophonist/bandleader Femi Kuti. The Santana rendition is not easily forgotten!

Carlos has been singing the praises of guitarist Derek Trucks for the past few years so it comes as no surprise that the Derek Trucks Band has been opening for Santana on this tour. They have been real crowd pleasers and on more than a few occasions, Carlos has joined them on stage. The major bonus for everyone has been that Derek Trucks along with his band’s flutist, Kofi Burbridge, has been joining Santana nightly for two or three numbers and the sparks have been flying. Carlos has been referring to Derek as “the anointed one”, in the sense that he feels that Derek may well be the next major guitarist of the twenty-first century.

For those who have yearned for more from the “old Santana” repertoire, the reappearance of “Incident at Neshabur”, “Soul Sacrifice, and”Brotherhood” has brought grateful smiles. For those who have come aboard the Santana train relatively recently,

“Smooth”, “Maria, Maria”,” Foo Foo”,”Corazon Espinado” and “Shape Shifter” are there every night.

 The linkage of “Right On” and the new “”Umi Says” has been every bit as successful as the concert closer of “Angel Chant” and”Into The Night”.

The tandem vocalists of Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay have been nothing short of sensational and the band has been exploiting its wealth of singers with five-part harmony vocals on a number of songs.

Historically, the most demanding critic of Santana has always been its leader, Carlos Santana, but even he was moved to say after a recent concert:” This band is good!”

Amen to that.

Hal Miller