Santana, Steve Winwood at VWMC, July 7

 

A giant video

screen above the stage announced the beginning of Santana's set, the

guitarist's logo fading into the image of a lone dove flying in slow motion,

then giving way to a montage of African drummers and dancers during which the

band began a high-powered percussion jam. Santana's band was comprised of 12

musicians, including a drummer and two huge percussion stations, all on risers.

The giant screen

helped the crowd to appreciate Santana's nimble finger work, not to mention his

ability to direct every ebb and flow of a huge band via his guitar. When his

band tackled his latter-day hits, the star vocal power from studio recordings

was not missed, with two lead vocalists sharing duties admirably. One of the

best moments came during the close of mega-hit "Smooth," when a transition to a

mambo mash-up brought the already-standing crowd over the edge.

Of course,

Santana had a few messages to give us about life and love, and he delivered

political commentary that seemed to over-simplify complex issues (such as a

proposal to legalize marijuana with the proceeds going towards education). But

his heart was in the right place, and that heart, even more than his immense

talent, might be why his career is still going as strong as ever.

Steve Winwood

delivered a strong performance as opening act for Santana. The hearty cheers

and ovations he received were of the sort usually reserved for the headliner.

It was not until he started playing hit after hit that the full scope of his

musical influence became clear to this reviewer. Crowded near the front of the

stage (most of which was taken up by Santana's stage plot), the instrumentation

consisted of organ, guitar, percussion, drums and sax, with the lack of bass

guitar depriving the band of some power. Winwood pulled off his biggest hits in

full fashion, including set highlight "Gimme Some Lovin."

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