Article and Photos by Andrés Alvarado
Not much more can be said about the legend of Carlos Santana that has not been mentioned thousands of times by now. Nonetheless, we can still marvel at the man’s ability to be cool beyond age, and his knack for badass musicianship. Over five decades in the game now, Santana and his cavalcade of virtuosos — which include his wife and drummer, Cindy Blackman Santana — took the City of Atlanta by the hand and walked them down a glorious path of rock-n-roll past and present during their last stop by the Ameris Bank Amphitheatre.
The clock strikes eight when band members stroll onto the dais. The crowd reaction is one of thunderous reverberation and sincere wide smiles. Enter Santana in funky sunglasses, red suede slip on loafers, and one snazzy panama hat. The mood is set, the groove is boss, it’s time to party the night away.
It’s a highly cohesive and tuneful bunch on the stage. Joyfulness, playfulness, energy, and engagement are the elements of the game; music is the name. Coupled to dazzling lights and towering background graphics, the gang go all out to bring those legendary tunes to life. Percussionist Paoli Mejías brings heart and soul onto every note he delivers. Cindy Blackman Santana is a full-fledged spark-plug on those hi-hats. Vocalists Ray Greene and Andy Vargas are musical juggernauts in their own right; from their beautiful deliveries to their collective mastery of the maracas, tambourines, and trombone. For his part, Benny Rietveld manhandles a mean bass and exudes what this band is all about. Rounding out the crew were keyboardist David K. Mathews, percussionist Karl Perazzo, and guitarist Tommy Anthony, who all shine in their own way, and all add their grain of tuneful oomph to create a perfect vibe.
Naturally, while the touring musicians all bring their respective qualities and coolness, the man of the hour is Carlos Santana. In short, Carlos Santana is one bad, bad man — in the good sense of the word. Even in his 70s, this Mexican-American rock icon is a suave maestro. From his expressive facial grins to his shredding on that golden axe, this old school cat is simply magnificent. Performing all the big hits like “Smooth,” “Black Magic Woman,” and “Maria, Maria,” a surprising cover of John Lennon‘s “Imagine,” plus plenty off his upcoming LP, Africa Speaks, Carlos Santana is still a musical force to be reckoned with.
All said and done, Carlos Santana and his posse rifled off renditions left and right, each passing tune better than its predecessor. From start through encore and beyond, roars drew louder, applause rained heavier, the music simply took over. Basically, if you are in search of a live spectacle that will meet expectations and then some, go check out Santana’s live pageantry.