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article imageOp-Ed: Santana an icon of Woodstock generation Special

By Mark Finnegan     Jul 13, 2010 in Entertainment
Toronto - Carlos Santana, 62, still has the power of the Latino beat and the idealism that keeps his music current and uplifting. He remains truly one of the greatest guitar virtuosos of our time, recently taking the stage in Toronto.
It was a perfect evening on the waterfront in Toronto. The spreading gold of the sunset streached across the lake as the sun made it way westward towards Hamilton. The old hippie crowd was a bit greyer, a bit slower but still the smiles and the friendly atmosphere brought me back to simpler times when we were not jaded by societal corruption and media sensationalizing.
Steve Winwood was the opening act, and his younger 5-piece band did a great job keeping up with him. His voice sounded as strong as always as he worked his way through a short set of his hits. He rocked out on his signature Hammond B-3 organ to “Higher Love” and “Gimme Some Loving” which he first recorded in 1967 when he was 16 years old, with the Spencer Davis Group. He then showed some great guitar work on “Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory” from his “Traffic” days. He is certainly still able to “play guitar…make it snappy”. The sound was excellent and his saxophone player never missed a note.
Santana opened up in his usual self-effacing way, the lights went up as the large band set the tempo and mood with ringing keyboard work, a blasting horn section and that all encompassing Latino beat provided by two drummers, a Conga player and a Tim-bale magician. Carlos himself was lost in the middle of the big band allowing the band to take the lead and set the mood. Then he clicked down on a foot pedal and the beautiful long sustain of his masterful lead guitar punctured the rolling rhythm with that heavenly sound that only he can make. From his first note to his last he blended new solos with his signature licks in absolute perfection.
No one could have been disappointed with his choice of songs. They spanned the decades like his career and his continuing popularity. There was a haunting version of “Singing Winds, Crying Beasts” that morphed into “Black Magic Woman”, just like on the album “Abraxas”. (1970) I closed my eyes for a second and drifted back to my youth and for a moment I was back in Gordon Donnelly’s basement crowded around his little 20 watt “sound system” tapping my foot like a demented white boy trying to find the natural rhythm. The crowd roared and dammit I was back in the here and now, just in time to watch the ladies in the crowd hop up to gyrate to “Oye Como Va”.
I had wondered if he would do any of his 1998 smash hit album, “Supernatural” thinking that with all the over dubs and guest artists on that record it might be hard to re-produce live. Then a roadie came out and set up an acoustic guitar on a stand alone rack and I knew we were in for a treat. Carlos flipped his electric onto his back and stepped up to the acoustic and the sensual flamenco intro of “Maria, Maria” filled the auditorium. He switched back and forth between instruments with blinding speed and instantaneous precision and the tune rang free and beautiful, just like on the record. His two lead singers belted out the lyrics with enthusiasm and control, just happy to be there and share some history with the master. Then….hold your breathe…the signature opening snare raps of the mega hit “Smooth” got us all feeling like we were indeed “…7 inches from the noon-day sun”.
From the first to the last it was classic Santana, as good if not better than when I saw him the 70’s or in the 80’s. He even threw in a rousing version of Eric Clapton’s (or Cream’s) “Sunshine of Your Love” which rocked along like the original till Carlos blended in some Santana leads to bring it to another level.
Mr. Santana was obviously in a great frame of mind. He talked to the crowd throughout and was obviously very proud of his new wife who he introduced and brought on to play even more percussion about half way through the show. Then as the Latino tempo eased up a bit, he stepped to the microphone and told us exactly what makes him tick. As the band mellowed out behind him he spoke of his love of spirituality and his hope that mankind could learn to feast on the inner peace that we all have hidden within us. I could sense the crowd groan inwardly as they heard the old hippie words “love… sharing…peace”, but Carlos was not deterred and he said his piece. I was less than impressed with the lack of reaction from the crowd when he concluded by saying, “Stop the War!”. I got the impression that many of the Canadians in the crowd thought, “What War?”. Well …the people in Afghanistan can tell us what war and our boys caught up in that imperialistic quagmire can also tell us. I seemed to be alone when I stood up to cheer that sentiment, but in all fairness Santana did not set up the line properly and get people’s proper attention.
As I reflected upon the concert the next day I thought of the changes I have witnessed in the music industry. I am old enough to remember the Vietnam war and I saw how the social impetus of the “youth” movement served to help end that war and bring some form of justice to South East Asia. That youth movement fed off the power and the social consciousness of the music at the time. Think, if CS NY had not sang about 4 dead in Ohio, there would likely have been 8 dead in Michigan the following week and 16 dead in Kansas the week after. If Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young,(etc etc etc) had not stood up for peace American troops would still be occupying South Vietnam as they still occupy South Korea.
It is a real pity that modern music cannot provide the education our children need. When one is too busy worried about hairstyles and clothes and pleasing the record company it’s hard to focus on the music. Music today gives the people what they think they want, and like food from McDonald’s it just leaves them fat and lazy living in a plastic world of commercialism. It seems sad that the old guard of music now well over 60 remains alone to try and combat the homogenization of corporate music.
Everything seemed to change in the 80’s with the onset of disco music and the flirtation with cocaine and amphetamines. From that era all the songs seem to blend into that disgusting anthem, “Don’t Rock the Boat, Baby”. ( For those lucky enough not to catch that reference, please do not go look it up)
It’s not all the old guard, either only the true hippies amongst them. Artists like Sir Elton John and Sir Mick Jagger and even tragically Sir Paul McCartney (etc. etc etc) have lost whatever social relevance they once had, by agreeing to not “rock the boat” and not sing about anything important. Elton John and Paul McCartney have both played in Israel this summer while Carlos Santana cancelled his concert there in protest to the Israeli attack on the humanitarian flotilla. (Nine dead in Oh-hi –o)
It always seemed to me if you don’t stand for something you go down on everything.
Bravo! Carlos Santana please God don’t let it be an end of an era.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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