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Santana’s Indelible Performance at Pine Knob for the 1001 Rainbows Tour

Santana performs at Pine Knob Amphitheatre © John Swider

Clarkston,Michigan (June 30,2023)-On a warm and humid Thursday night at the iconic Pine Knob Amphitheatre, guitar virtuoso Carlos Santana took the stage once again, nearly a year to the day after his frightening collapse during a performance at the same venue in 2022. With an array of classic hits, mesmerizing guitar solos and a music catalog dating back to the late 1960′, Santana delivered a performance that would transcend his nearly six decade career and one that his most devote fans would classify as career defining.

Now at a sprite 75 years old, Santana is one of a dwindling number of remaining groups or performers who played the legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969. The band’s incendiary performance at the event later broke to a much wider audience in the movie that has been credited with being “The Big Break” for the performer. Fifty plus years later, Santana still plays with the same voracity as he did back at Max Yasgur’s farm, but with a more subdued approach that still incites the same reaction from his fans as it did on that historical July day.

The 1001 Rainbows Tour, Santanas latest endeavor, hit the stage at 8:05 P.M. with an explosive rendition of “Soul Sacrifice,” the last song off his 1969 self titled debut album. A full instrumental cut that features a scintillating rhythmic three chord progression, energized the sold out venue from the first guitar lick and was a perfect segue into “Jin-go-lo-ba” a groove-laden burner that let the percussionists stretch their legs, immersing the crowd into Santana’s signature blend of Latin rock and soulful guitar-centric melodies. The band effortlessly transitioned into the timeless classics “Evil Ways” and “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen,” captivating the audience with their seamless musicality. In what is now quickly becoming the new “norm,” Thursdays show was front-packed with Santanas biggest and best-known hits from 1969 debut Santana and follow-up Abraxas. Also the early start was a text book a case of the old adage “you snooze you lose,” meaning if you were not in your seat at the scheduled start time you missed probably one of the most potent opening  runs of a concert in quite some time as no special guest was scheduled as a opener in the Motor City.

As the night progressed, the band maintained their potent energy, effortlessly moving from one hit to another. “No One to Depend On” and “Right On/Umi Says” showcased the band’s versatility, with each member contributing their unique talent to create a harmonious and powerful sound. As Santana doesn’t sing lead himself, vocal duties were split between the bassist and two utility singer/players, who would often trade off as they did on “Everybody’s Everything,” which featured a smoking dexterous break from the bassist and drummer Cindy Blackman, who is also Carlos Santana’s wife. A soulful and emotive “Put Your Lights On” demonstrated Santana’s ability to touch the hearts of his listeners, while “Corazon Espinado” and “Maria Maria” transported the audience to a realm of rhythmic and soulful bliss.

Santana performs at Pine Knob Amphitheatre © John Swider

Santana and his eight-piece band ventured into uncharted territory with the inclusion of “Foo Foo,” off the 2002 album Shaman. A lively and energy laden composition that infused elements of Afro-Cuban rhythms and jazz. The track injected an invigorating sense of experimentation, highlighting Santana’s constant willingness to push the boundaries of his music.

The concert reached its pinnacle during its multi-song encore, where Santana treated the crowd to a mesmerizing medley of “Toussai y l’ouverture” along with a captivating extended drum solo by Cindy Blackmon that left jaws dropping in awe. The energy, palpable throughout the 2-hour performance, surged with a sensational cover of  The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues,” infused with Santana’s unique Latin flair. The performance then transitioned seamlessly into the powerful anthem “Love, Peace, and Happiness,” reminding us all of the enduring message of unity that Santana has championed throughout his career.

Santana performs at Pine Knob Amphitheatre © John Swider

Santana finished the evening off  with as much energy and emotion as he began with, performing the mega-hit “Smooth.” The unmistakable opening guitar riff resonated through the venue, instantly igniting a collective surge of emotion from the amazingly still packed venue. Santana’s supporting soulful vocals intertwined with the band’s dynamic instrumentation, created an irresistible synergy that had the crowd singing along with unbridled enthusiasm. As the evenings performance concluded, it became evident that Santana’s legacy as a guitar virtuoso and a transcendent musical force continues to flourish. With his uncanny ability to seamlessly blend genres, unwavering dedication to his craft and his indomitable spirit, Santana once again solidified his status as a true icon of rock music.

The Santana 1001 Rainbows Tour at Pine Knob was an extraordinary musical experience that will undoubtedly be etched in the memories of all those fortunate enough to witness it. Santana and his band mesmerized the audience with their impeccable musicianship, unwavering passion, and a setlist that celebrated Santana’s timeless hits. As tight as the band is, Santana makes it a point to step back and gave each a moment in the spotlight to demonstrate their own virtuosity, showcasing an intuitive connection that only comes from years of collaboration. Likewise, Santana’s guitar solos were nothing short of breathtaking, transporting the audience on a sonic journey that traversed decades and served as a testament to the legacy Carlos Santana has created for himself and the musicians that have been fortunate to play live with him. Tonights performance was delivered with a level of passion and soul equal to the legendary sonic charge of his guitar, a sound that is one of the world’s best-known musical signatures. For more than five decades—from Santana’s earliest days as a groundbreaking Afro-Latin-blues-rock fusion outfit in San Francisco—Carlos has been the visionary force behind the artistry that transcends musical genres and generational, cultural, and geographical boundaries and unites cultural indifferences with his music worldwide.

Thank you Carlos Santana. Hopefully we can all do it again next year.

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Carlos Santana:

Pine Knob Amphitheatre: