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There is always something extra special about going to a concert that cannot be found in other music formats. Albums, even live albums, just don't seem to be able to capture all of the energy and atmosphere in the room when a band is on stage performing. That isn't to say that the albums aren't any good as usually they're very good at capturing the energy of a specific musical moment, but it is a different experience than a concert. Concert have just more magic, and a more palpable energy.
How much a band's live shows differ in feel than their albums can range. With some bands, live is where they live. They might make excellent albums, but the band on stage performing is really what it's all about. Other bands the difference isn't so clear, instead being able to excel in the studio environment, but have a difficult time reproducing that on stage. Both bands are making great music, just in different venues. I didn't realize it until I saw them live just the other day, but Santana is one of the first types of bands... a band where the energy live is far beyond that of the albums, making for an incredible concert event.
For this concert review, I'm not going to concentrate as much on the set list and highlights as I have with other bands. I think it would be difficult to discuss in that way just because of the nature of the performance. That isn't to say that it was a bad show... quite the opposite... but as performances go, this one was far less highlight and even song oriented in my mind. Again, that isn't to say that there weren't definite songs... all the ones you'd expect to find in a Carlos Santana set list, both classics ("Jingo", "Soul Sacrifice", "Oye Como Ca") and some of his newer hits ("Smooth", "Maria Maria") were all present. Even the classic "Black Magic Woman" came out in full force... a moment I would consider a highlight I guess if you're really looking for me to list some, but it'd be more so because I like the song than anything else.
Instead, what I'm getting at is that this concert felt more like nearly 3 hours of continuous latin beats, powerful singing and incredible spine tingling guitar playing all rolled up in a party-esque atmosphere that left you feeling happy and alive. Some concerts you come out of feeling like you're on an adrenaline rush, and then completely drained because you (and the band) put so much into the performance. This was different. Afterwards I felt energized, like I had absorbed all the infectious energy of the show... it was invigorating, vibrant and alive... and that's exactly how I left feeling. It's almost like it was 3 hours of an outpouring and exchange of joy between the band and the audience, very uplifting, even spiritual (although not necessarily in a religious way). Truly one of the more unique and powerful concert experiences I've ever been a part of.
I don't think I was the only one feeling so alive as the crowd was certainly into it singing along, and dancing... oh my, like the whole place was dancing... and grooving to the music. The band seemed to be having loads of fun too, further energizing the audience, which in turn came back to push the band further again... like a loop of human energy. It sounds a little crazy to read... but once you've been to a show like this I think these odd phrases and vagueness will make a little more sense.
As for the musicality of the night, the band was totally on with great musicianship throughout but some especially killer horn and percussion work. Carlos himself was in great form letting his perfect sense of phrasing create some spine tingling moments just oozing with soul, as always. The Derek Trucks Band opened the show, and I've got to say, this is the third time I've seem them play (I think) and every time I'm more and more impressed by Truck's guitar work... very impressive. Of course Derek Trucks joined Santana for a song which lead to some great trading of guitar licks as expected. Overall, a very tight musical performance with tons of soul and fun from just about everyone.
I think it really makes for an interesting contrast between the Santana albums and Santana live. I've always like Santana's albums and there are some classic tracks and great emotional content throughout. I didn't really realize how much comes through in their live show though that doesn't on album. It's as if you took a turned the soul up to 11... everything is just that much more powerful and expressive.
A concerts go, this was a unique experience with great performances that was tons of fun and very emotionally uplifting. Everyone, the band included seemed to leave a little bit happier and more alive. I won't really compare these more recent tours with those from back in the 60s and 70s to much as it doesn't really seem worth it. I will say though that there's definitely more of a youthful vibe at this show. Maybe not youthful per say, but vibrant and alive, which can be equated with youth. I still think that long time Santana fans with enjoy themselves just as much though as just like back when he first got started, Carlos plays with passion and fire, and the band puts on some high energy performances.
If you're at all a Santana fan and have not been to see him play live, I highly recommend you get out there and do just that. Or maybe you're just feeling down and need to let off a little steam, this would be a great kind of concert to go to... assuming you can let yourself become immersed in the music. Either way, this kind of concert and the music of Carlos Santana is good for the soul.
I'd also recommend seeing the Derek Trucks Band if you get the chance, or just checking out their music if you're a fan of blues and blues rock bands. Not only is Trucks a great guitarist, but his band seems to be full of soul and making some great music.