Carlos Santana returned to the stage with his band for an emotional and astounding marathon concert at the California Mid-State Fair on Saturday, July 23rd. The show was exceptional for many reasons, but primarily because it took place at all. On July 5th, the now 75-year-old icon fell ill during a performance in Michigan, and his wife (drummer in the band) reported that he collapsed due to heat and dehydration. A half dozen shows on the tour were initially canceled due to the scare. The show at the nearly sold-out Mid-State fair arena was the first for Santana since the incident. It was possible he was using the concert to test his stamina for the rest of the tour and requested that there would be no opening act. Instead, the performer with his band of phenomenal musicians graced the stage shortly after 7:30 and played an utterly astounding set for nearly two and a half hours.
Euphoric music fans on the side bleachers, with a backstage view, erupted in boisterous cheers as the beloved performer appeared backstage. A huge cheer went up all across the venue as Carlos was getting ready to play at the side of the stage. With a beaming smile on his face, the guitar wizard motioned to the crowd to smoke their favorite herbs, setting the stage for the emotionally uplifting concert. The show began with a string of Santana’s earliest and biggest hits, including “Soul Sacrifice” and the cover the band made famous of Babatunde Olatunji’s “Jin-go-la-ba.” From there, Carlos led the band with one fierce riff after another on his beloved gold guitar during a medley of “Evil Ways,” “Black Magic Woman," and “Oye Coma Va.” That led to another classic, “Incident at Neshabur,” from the Abraxas album.
The aptly named “Miraculous Supernatural” tour then turned towards more recent material, spanning five decades of recording history. Carlos began to banter with the audience at this point in the show. The performer, well known for his spiritual conscience and positive thinking, thanked God for allowing him to continue his earthly journey, endearing himself to the massive crowd. He quipped, “I am not quite ready to join Stevie and Jimmy for that jam up there. We still have things to do down here.” The crowd erupted in another huge cheer in acknowledgment.
The band had a chance to showcase their skills on another classic cover of The Zombies, “She’s Not There.” The group was anchored on drums by Carlos’s wife, Cindy Santana. The musician is an absolute powerhouse playing rhythms in the vein of Keith Moon. Cindy forms the center of a trio of extraordinary percussionists in the band, including Karl Perazzo and Paoli Mejias. Spirited bass player Benny Rietveld played a thundering bass. David K. Mathews played an array of keyboards giving the jams a classic rock sound. Rhythm guitar player Tommy Anthony grounded the guitar sound while Carlos repeatedly launched into spellbinding jams. Singers Andy Vargas and Ray Greene took turns on lead vocals giving the immense set list a vast range of vocal capabilities. The Zombies cover turned into a medley of classic rock riffs molded together brilliantly in an extended jam.
The band then paused again while Carlos continued his conversation with the audience. He shared an anecdote about the genesis of the next song the band would play, “Joy,” from the group's newest album, Blessings, and Miracles. The prodigious songwriter decided that he would like to collaborate with Chris Stapleton and asked his manager to get in touch. Carlos quipped, “We want to do something with Chris. Can you help us out?” When the manager asked what kind of music he wanted to make, he replied, “We want to play mystical medicine music to heal people from fear.” “We are so bored with fear; joy is the opposite of fear.” The crowd erupted in another huge affirming cheer, and the band launched into the new tune.
Further into the set, Vargas took over lead vocals for “Move,” Santana’s latest collaboration with Rob Thomas, which is a tune also found on the new album. Later the band would play one of Santana's biggest hits, “Smooth," from an earlier collaboration with Rob Thomas. The band tore through 20 songs, ending with a pair of classic rock covers, including The Door's “Roadhouse Blues” and an appropriate finale with “Love Peace and Happiness” by The Chambers Brothers.