Written by Dave Clements

It was Cinco de Mayo Weekend here deep in the heart of Texas – and who more appropriate to be playing in the Houston area than Carlos Santana? Certainly, we would welcome him any time to Texas because he is an extremely talented guitarist and I was honored to be able to photograph him last night at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.
As it turns out this show, and the one the night before in Dallas, were make-up shows that had been previously scheduled, then postponed a time or two before due to COVID and illness.
Earlier in the day I was more than a little worried that it could happen again as it was storming badly and very windy. However, all the bad weather had left the area well before the time his opener, Arc Angel hit the stage. As it turned out, it was a lovely Sunday evening to sit outdoors and enjoy some great music and that is exactly what I did along with many thousands more!

Arc Angels hit the stage on time and kicked off the evening in fine fashion. Although I had never seen them before I was excited to see their performance given they were opening for the world-famous Santana and therefore had to be pretty darn good. As it turned out they are a part of Rock and Roll Royalty themselves. How about Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton, and Eric Clapton’s guitar player Doyle Bramhall II for starters. Then throw in Charlie Sexton who earlier in his career was a guitarist in Bob Dylan’s band. The guys that make up Arc Angels, all out of Austin, set the stage for a special night as they themselves were a large part of why it was so special.

Instead of coming out at 8:30 pm as scheduled Carlos arrived on stage, can you believe it, fifteen minutes early! What a treat. Maybe he just couldn’t wait a minute longer to start his show. Regardless of the why I loved it, especially on a school night. I just wish more bands would do that, versus going on well after their show is scheduled to start. It would certainly cause many music goers to arrive earlier than they currently do and allow others, like myself, who are always early, an opportunity to see the show and still get in bed a little sooner.

Carlos Santana is an icon. He is a master of the guitar. He can create a sound that is uplifting, exciting, bold, and sufficiently rhythmic to keep you moving one way or another for hours. Maybe it is just moving your hands but way more likely it is your entire body and perhaps he has you jumping in place; something not easy for some of us to do anymore! I’d would suggest to you that many tried Sunday night, some successfully others perhaps not so much; but A for effort for everyone in attendance. It’s impossible not to be moved to at least try!

Santana doesn’t talk much on stage, for sure he doesn’t sing much, perhaps a little background vocal during the show but he can make his guitar do all the talking, song after song.
He did everything I hoped to hear from Evil Ways, Black Magic Woman, Oye Como Va, Put Your Lights On, and one of my most favorites Maria Maria. He covered Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine and The Doors’ Roadhouse Blues, both very entertaining. He also sang a really cool song he asked Chris Stapleton to write for him called Joy…way to go Chris, impressive. And of no surprise he ended his nineteen-song set with the crowd pleasing Smooth.

This reviewer was once again so impressed that he could create, with the help of his bandmates such a special evening of entertainment. It is almost unbelievable that someone like myself can get so much pleasure out of watching the stage in front of you transform into a magical high energy extravaganza. All created and delivered by eight people but obviously directed by one very special talent.And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention his drummer Cindy Blackman Santana. This is not a case of nepotism driving why Cindy is on the drums. It is all about her ability to kick ass. Blackman Santana is crazy good and fun to watch play. Her hands and feet are never not moving and she might be singing the lyrics to every song as well…for sure she is a force to be reckoned with! Wonder how that dynamic works at home and off stage? I’m guessing they have a very interesting relationship AND she holds her own!
In closing all I can really add is Carlos Santana just delivers the goods. Unpretentious yet in total control of the stage. Impressive beyond any words that I own. Nothing fancy, but oh my can he play his (Eastern Shore of Maryland made) Paul Reed Smith custom guitar.
Until next time, help keep live music alive.