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October 30, 2014

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Review:

Welcome home, Carlos

Vegas’ new ‘resident’ star puts on a show for the ages at The Joint at the Hard Rock

Image

Leila Navidi

Carlos Santana, 62, mixes the hits from his extensive catalog Wednesday in his new show at The Joint at the Hard Rock, which is aiming its programming at the Baby Boomer generation.

Supernatural Santana

Carlos Santana performs live during the first night of new show Launch slideshow »

If You Go

  • What: “Supernatural Santana: A Trip Through the Hits”
  • When: 9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday; June 10, 11, 13, 14; Aug. 26, 27, 29, 30; Sept. 4-6, 9
  • Where: The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel
  • Tickets: $79 to $155; 693-5000
  • Audience advisory: Bring your dancing shoes — you’ll be dancing in your seat. And bring ear protection — or risk ringing ears the morning after.

Carlos Santana really could make this “residency” thing work.

After seeing Carlos and Co. blow through an almost two-hour set Thursday night that left me wanting more, Santana seemed an inspired choice for the first extended residency at the new Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel.

Santana is perfect for all sorts of reasons: immigrant success story, great guitar player who lifted Latin rock out of the psychedelic stew, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with a 40-year career. He actually got more popular as he got older — getting more radio airplay and winning nine Grammys after his 50th birthday.

“Supernatural Santana: A Trip Through the Hits” gives this 62-year-old rock legend a great vehicle for plumbing his massive catalog.

And The Joint gives his diverse, multigenerational fans a comfortable place to sit and enjoy it.

The show began by paying homage to Santana’s Woodstock-era roots — with the current band playing “Soul Sacrifice” on stage as video showed a painfully young Santana playing on stage at Yasgur’s farm.

The band played lots of favorites during the 15-song set, including “Into the Night,” “Africa Bamba,” “Maria Maria,” “No One to Depend On,” “Black Magic Woman,” “Oye Como Va” and finally “Jingo.” I’m one of those folks who doesn’t care if he ever hears “Smooth” again — but even it sounded good.

No, Santana did not attempt to play only — or all of — his radio hits. But he has a core of signature songs that he can mix and match with his other hits to create a different show every night.

The show seemed anything but formulaic. The band was cooking and Carlos had plenty of room to stretch out, whether he was riffing over “Samba Para Ti” or bringing a reinvented “Evil Ways” back to its jamming roots. He dropped snippets of other songs — “Brazil,” “Oh Well” — into his solos. And the band sounded loose and responsive.

He did get a little talkative during “A Love Supreme,” asking rhetorically, “What’s more important than peace?” and urging President Barack Obama to legalize marijuana and bring home the troops. I would have preferred to hear him pour his heart through his guitar on the Coltrane classic, but heartfelt rambling is part of Santana’s charm, too.

The show’s not all about Carlos. His band is a monster.

Start with an industrial-strength rhythm section: Karl Perazzo on congas and timbales, Raul Rekow on congas, Dennis Chambers on trap drums, Benny Rietveld on bass and Tommy Anthony on guitar.

Blend in the perfect foil — organist Chester Thompson, who has played with Santana since 1983.

Add the horn parts and soulful solos from trombonist Jeff Cressman and trumpeter Bill Ortiz.

At times, this rock band produced infectious dance rhythms more associated with Eddie Palmieri or the Fania All-Stars. The players appeared to be having a blast and sounded stronger than on recent tours. Maybe staying in one place agrees with them.

Over the years, Santana has worked with a choir of distinctive vocalists — from Rob Thomas and John Lee Hooker to Gloria Estefan and Michelle Branch. But the band’s vocal duo of Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay make these hits their own.

The “greatest hits” concept got me wondering what my favorite Santana song is. I whittled it down to two. On this night, Santana played one, “Corazon Espinado.” But I figured he’d probably get around to “Europa” sometime during the weekend.

That could be one key to drawing repeat customers.

Another key: This Vegas show doesn’t seem, well, Vegas-y.

Sure, there’s more “production value” than you’d see if you caught Santana’s act in a shed or ballpark. The set is decorated with Mayan and Aztec symbols and crowned with a glowing lion’s head. There is a great video and light show and there are two big screens to give you a close-up look at the performers.

No, the band’s not wearing “costumes.”

And the dancers? They are all in the audience.

Most important, the sound is clean, clear and LOUD.

In the end, this is a good, old fashioned rock ’n’ roll show.

And I left with a smile on my face and a wiggle in my hips.

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