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Santana

(20 May 2008: The Fillmore — San Francisco, CA)

There’s a plethora of fingers in the air at the fabled corner of Fillmore and Geary, but not an extra ticket to be seen. Bay Area guitar legend Carlos Santana has taken a break from his Live Your Light arena tour to return to his old stomping grounds at the Fillmore for two special nights in honor of his pending compilation album Multi-Dimensional Warrior. The demand to witness this rock ‘n’ roll sermon is high.


The concept of Multi-Dimensional Warrior perfectly embodies what Carlos is all about—his career has been a musical mission to break through the ties of limited 3D reality and help listeners awaken to the multi-dimensional nature of the cosmos. Mayan calendar scholar Jose Arguelles once wrote that fourth-dimensional time is recreated or brought into being in the third dimension through the overtones of music, light, and color. Mixing those elements together is a concept that was pioneered at the Fillmore back in the 1960s by bands like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Santana himself, so where better to celebrate this occasion?


Video cameras are placed all around the Fillmore, recording both shows for a DVD release so that the beautiful realities visited throughout the evening can be shared with a larger audience. Anticipation is in the air as Carlos and his band members hit the stage and immediately start kicking down the jams. The instantly recognizable tone of one of rock’s all-time guitar greats sounds as good as ever. After several hot tunes, Carlos speaks to the crowd and declares “We are to be the change.”


The concept of being the change the world so desperately needs is one that Carlos returns to throughout the evening. Some musicians are afraid to get political, but not Carlos—he seems to feel as if his success gives him a responsibility to speak out. There’s also an intangible spiritual authenticity coming from Carlos that makes you believe that great change is indeed on the horizon. He talks about when he first came to the Fillmore in the late ‘60s and invokes the names of fallen change agents like Jerry Garcia, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, and legendary concert promoter Bill Graham.


Carlos carries the torch for all his fallen comrades into the 21st century and being here at the Fillmore tonight kind of feels like being at a church or temple. “We are the opposite of George W. Bush,” Carlos declares. “We are the power of love.”


The ever-mystical opening of “Black Magic Woman” rings out and the audience is transported to a higher plane. The song sizzles as Carlos throws down the song’s classic licks. The entire Fillmore is getting down, but it keeps getting better as the jam soon morphs into the Jimi Hendrix psychedelic classic “Third Stone from the Sun”, which results in a moment of pure musical bliss. “Third Stone” then segues into “Gypsy Queen” and “Oye Como Va”, kicking the groove party into yet another gear. The crowd is soon informed that there will be a break, which means an entire second set awaits—hallelujah!


A song early in the second set is dedicated to Bill Graham, and the sweet melancholy vibe rings deep. The band then pulls a 180 degree turn by busting out a super heavy rendition of “Open Invitation” that truly rocks the house, with Carlos ripping out power chords and shredding some jaw dropping solos in a jam that borders on heavy metal. The energy coming from the stage is contagious and the band/crowd feedback circuit is enacted.


The electric vibe carries throughout the rest of the set. “Maria Maria” is a groove masterpiece, with Carlos switching between acoustic and electric guitars to get all the tones just right. A Latin-flavored tune has the whole crowd dancing before giving way to a stellar psychedelic jam straight out of 1968, the first year that Santana played the Fillmore. At the end of the song, Carlos declares that “there’s no such thing as sin… there are errors that need to be corrected, but no sins.”


It’s an interesting take on the moral ties that bind us, and once again it’s easy to wonder if we’re at a show or a temple. Perhaps the Fillmore is a little bit of both; sacred ground for those who worship the religion of rock ‘n’ roll, with High Priest Carlos Santana presiding on this night. A smoking encore of “Soul Sacrifice” brings down the house once more and makes sure everyone gets what they came for from this sermon. But the priest can only do so much. Now the congregation must go out and be the change that Carlos talks about…

Greg M. Schwartz has covered music and pop culture for PopMatters since 2006. He focuses on events coverage with a preference for guitar-driven rock 'n' roll, but has eclectic tastes for the golden age of sound that is the 21st century music scene. He has a soft spot for music with a socially conscious flavor and is also an award-winning investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter at @gms111, where he's always looking for tips on new bands or under the radar news items.


Tagged as: santana
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26 Jun 2012
In spite of its title, Carlos and company don't really do a lot of shape-shifting on this roundly insipid record. It's depressing that Santana, an artist who is so clearly capable of creating frenetic, passionate - sexy even - music, has produced something so soullessly inert.
13 Mar 2012
Carlos Santana: Musical visionary or an A&R department lackey? Both are present, here.
26 Sep 2011
It's billed as The Sounds of Collective Consciousness Tour and not a moment too soon for a planet desperately in need of a stronger collective consciousness. It's quite simply a match made in rock 'n' roll heaven.
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