On the heels of the group’s milestone 25th album release, Africa Speaks, Santana brought their inspired, high energy act to the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, IL on Aug. 4 with a blazing performance of hits, deep cuts and fan favorites. Though the 2019 album did find its way into the setlist, the show was more a collection of iconic tunes spanning their impressive decades-long catalog of music, led by the band’s one and only mainstay, Mr. Carlos Santana.
Front and center during last night’s performance at the Chicago-area venue was Woodstock, which took place almost exactly half a century ago today. In celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the legendary event, which helped catapult the group early in their career, Carlos and company set the stage with some vintage Woodstock documentary footage, laying the tracks for an opening trio of standouts from their fiery festival set back in ’69.
First up was “Soul Sacrifice” which, much thanks to a flurry of fast hands from percussionists Karl Perazzo, Paoli Mejías and drummer Cindy Blackman Santana (who Carlos proposed to onstage at this very same venue some nine years ago), brought fans instantly to their feet. “Jingo” and “Evil Ways” soon followed — the latter which found Andy Vargas and Ray Greene taking up vocal duties while the always-cool Carlos worked the stage, blowing minds with some trademark soloing on his signature electric.
Woodstock made up only part of the equation last night, as Santana is also currently amidst yet another mega-anniversary — celebrating 20 years of the ultra-platinum, chart-topping, Grammy-winning smash hit, Supernatural. Subsequently, the group followed with a fitting three-song tribute to the album, beginning with a percussive bonanza set around the 1999 LP’s lead track “(Da Le) Yaleo,” prior to slowing things down with “Love of My Life.” “Put Your Lights On,” which featured Greene singing the vocals originally recorded by Everlast on the album, saw the audience harnessing the collective power of their cellular devices to light up every square inch of the 28,000 capacity venue.
“It’s a joy to be here with you,” Carlos told the Chicagoland crowd. “We love you. We feel you.” The jazz-blues-inspired guitarist went on to vocalize his appreciation for The Windy City, calling it “ground zero for the blues,” while also calling direct attention to the fact that artists like Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix could only exist in the wake of blues legends like Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor and Otis Rush.
While Carlos held tight command over the stage, wielding his guitar like an extension of his own body, each member of his eight-piece band were also given ample time to show off their musical chops throughout the show. Keyboardist David K Mathews got a chance to spread his wings on a key-centric rendition of “Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen,” while Bassist Benny Rietveld made his presence known during a fusion pair of covers, Marvin Gaye’s “Right On” into Mos Def’s “Umi Says.” Vocalist Greene also routinely added some color on trombone, most notably during the band’s cover of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” which Carlos recorded back on his solo 1973 album with John McLaughlin, Love Devotion Surrender.
Other highlights from Sunday’s show included the mellow and infectious “Do You Remember Me” as well as the multi-part instrumental “Incident at Neshabur,” and its companion Abraxas track “Oye Como Va,” which saw Carlos fiercely shredding while bathed under a sea of red light. The group later delivered a slew of crowd-pleasers including “Maria Maria,” and “Smooth,” prior to closing things out with “Love, Peace and Happiness / Freedom.”
Prior to Santana’s performance, fans were treated to a jam-filled set by The Doobie Brothers, who entertained the crowd with a string of hits including “Jesus Is Just Alright,” “Takin’ it to the Streets,” “Black Water” and “Listen to the Music.”
Santana will be on the road with The Doobie Brothers through the end of August, prior to taking up residency at Las Vegas’ House of Blues at Mandalay Bay, where they will play a lengthy string of shows through May of 2020. Visit the official Santana website for more information and to pick up tickets to the Supernatural Now Tour or Sin City’s An Intimate Evening with Santana: Greatest Hits Live.