Photos by Scott Smith
Carlos Santana began his illustrious career in 1966 when he formed the Santana Blues Band in San Francisco. His first step towards superstardom was taken at Woodstock in 1969, when his band had a breakout performance that included a fantastic rendition of “Soul Sacrifice.” Over the last 40 years, the beloved musician has amassed millions of fans, had countless hits, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has been the recipient of countless musical achievement awards. With such a prolific career, it wasn’t surprising to see Pier Six Pavilion in Baltimore filled with fans both young and old.
With a clip from the Woodstock movie playing, Santana and his ten-piece band walked onto a stage that was scented with patchouli from the incense that was slowly burning by the stage monitors and bathed in vibrantly colored lights. Fittingly, the set opened with “Soul Sacrifice” as Woodstock continued to play on a screen behind the band.
A few songs into the show, Santana spoke to the audience and commented about the diversity of the crowd, likening them to a rainbow of colors. He commented briefly about the importance of peace, love and happiness in life before launching into a 21-song, two-and-a-half hour set that was as diverse as the audience before him. He played fan favorites, such as “Evil Ways,” “Maria Maria,” “Smooth” and “Europa,” but he also played a variety of songs by John Coltrane, Michael Jackson, Skank and Deon Jackson. The tune by Skank, “Saideira” is the first song on his latest release, Corazón. His talented son, Salvador Santana, and singer, Alex Nestor, joined him onstage as they provided the vocals for a few of Salvador’s tunes, including the uplifting, “Rise Up” and “Fantasy Reality” from his newest record of the same name.
On what was a perfect summer evening on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the air was filled with Latin fused rock, jazz, rap and pop. The strong, yet rhythmic, percussion instruments and the horn section were led by Santana’s unmistakable sound on guitar. The notes were sweet and seemingly hung in the air as they drifted out over the water toward fan filled boats that were listening on the bay. It was a party atmosphere in the venue as the crowd smiled, laughed, swayed and danced throughout the evening. When a song finished, they didn’t just applaud, they erupted into cheers.
As the show approached the end, Santana played “Tequila” by the Champs, before ending the set with his 1999 hit, “Smooth.” During the encore, he pleased his fans with “Black Magic Woman,” “Oye Como Va” and “Toussaint L’Overture.” While walking from the venue after the show, fans could be heard commenting about how great the music was throughout the evening. There are some live performances that stay with you long after the last note is played and his was one of them.
Carlos Santana and his band will continue their tour through November 2015.