A certain indescribable energy filled the Bell Centre last night as musical legend Carlos Santana and his 10-piece band serenaded the Montreal crowd. Close to 6 years since his last stop in our city, we were due for a lesson from arguably the world’s greatest guitarist. Touring in support of the band’s 23rd album, Santana IV, Carlos brought his impressive 2 and a half hour live performance to a packed Bell Centre following a successful night at Quebec City’s Centre Videotron. Unfortunately, unlike some recent shows in the states, Santana was not joined by the members of the original Woodstock-era band, but by no means does that insinuate the current touring band aren’t amazing in their own part. Nonetheless, it seems that recording Santana IV with the original crew has rejuvenated the aging guitarist’s youthful spirit. The Luminosity Tour has been promoted as “An Evening With Santana”, but with the number of musicians who had their time to shine Tuesday night, it was more than a one man show.
Despite a number of attendees still waiting patiently in line outside, at 8:30 sharp the band’s 1969 Woodstock introduction began playing over the speakers as they readied their instruments. Carlos stood centre stage, surrounded by his bassist, pianist, 3 percussionists, back-up guitarist and brass section. Following a quick greeting, the band jumped right into the opening song, “Soul Sacrifice”. From then on, one song merged into another, turning the setlist into one long jam session. Crowd favourites like “Maria Maira” and “Oye Como Va” sounded like completely new compositions thanks to Santana’s decades of experience reworking his hit tracks. If you were paying close enough attention, you would have picked up on the little additions to other songs, including an interpretation of the Rolling Stones track “Paint It Black” during “Black Magic Woman”. In addition to these classic Santana hits, the show featured a big selection of covers/tributes to some of the greats Carlos has braced the stage with during his historic career. These included the John Coltrane song “A Love Supreme”, John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Woman” and Mos Def’s “Umi Says”. But, no song had the crowd dancing like the much anticipated show closer “Smooth”.
Short pauses throughout the night provided each musician the opportunity to show off their talent, including an amazing bass solo from bassist Benny Rietveld. But, more importantly, a break halfway through the show was intended for Santana to take a second to feel the energy in the room and preach a little bit to the crowd. Talking about peace, love and unity, Carlos brought us back to the Woodstock days when the idea that we are one family was stronger than ever. With an incredible performance spanning his entire career, Tuesday night was an evening you did not want to miss. As the guitar legend continues to age, I suggest taking advantage of the next time Santana is in town, because you never know when he will hang up that gold guitar for good.
Watch footage of Santana playing Soul Sacrifice at Woodstock in 1969