August is arguably the best month for an outdoor concert in the Finger Lakes region, particularly if the event is situated at a beautiful venue like CMAC. My friend and I agreed that we should attend the Santana show on Saturday, but also catch a lecture, “Seven Candles: Science for a Deeper Spirituality,” before the performance. Carlos Santana has always struck me as a spiritual kind of guy, so we figured a visit to Gossamer Wood, a healing retreat center in Canandaigua for the “Seven Candles” presentation would be a good opening act.
We drove into the woods and parked in the driveway of the healing house. Upon entering, our host JD greeted us warmly. Once he got down to business, that was when things started to get a little hippy. Nearly all of the presentation was over my head but there were some cool photos of the Milky Way among other things displayed on the television. I forgot to ask the question: How does our own galaxy take its own selfie? Anyway, here is a fun fact: humans share 50 percent of our DNA with bananas. The lecture was over before we knew it and left us illuminated. We made our cosmic connection when at the end JD told us that he shared the stage with Santana at a peace concert in the former U.S.S.R.
It was a skip and jump over to CMAC. After a wait we got inside the almost sold-out venue; it was the largest crowd I had ever seen under the shell. The show drew a diverse group age-wise and my friend mentioned that he never thought he would see old folks in walkers at a rock concert. Either way, we were positively stoked for the Corazón Tour.
The concert opened with vintage footage of Woodstock displayed on the enormous video panel behind the players. At 67 years old, Carlos Santana walked onstage wearing a black fedora, black vest, white shirt and launched into instrumental “Soul Sacrifice” with a purple guitar. Everything about his band was big; in fact it was double sized by including two percussionists, dual guitars, trumpet and trombone, and two lead vocalists. At one point Carlos Santana mentioned it was the band’s deepest desire to give the audience a memorable night, which was what I experienced. The entire show was damn near flawless. The crisp clean sound, the lights, the backing band and the man himself made me feel like I was at the Grammys.
The well-behaved crowd sat mostly in their seats but stood up for hits, “Maria Maria,” and “Smooth.” Carlos Santana was also a collector of songs as he took a few familiar licks and blended those into his own. It was like playing a game of name that tune: “Paint It Black” led into “Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen”; Coltrane’s “Blue Train” morphed into “A Place with No Name” which contained elements of America’s “A Horse With No Name”; and The Champs’ “Tequila” turned into The Temptations’ “Get Ready” before coming back around.
The band rocked on for more than an hour before Carlos Santana introduced his son, Salvatore, for a three-song mini-set that created a change of direction as the younger Santana dabbled in hip-hop. Once the normal set list resumed it turned into a percussion feast with “Jingo,” a tune he first performed at The Fillmore in 1967. The sweaty, charged up conga solo by percussionist Paoli Mejías proved to be a mind-blowing highlight. The show concluded with a three-song encore that ended with “Ominous.” By this time fans were standing several deep at the front of the stage. Carlos Santana crouched down and even let a couple of lucky fans strum his guitar.