I had the good fortune to go to a great party Wednesday night. Well, it wasn't officially a party. It was, officially, the first of Santana's 31-show 2012 residency at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. (This residency extends into 2013 with those dates to be announced.)
Billed as An Intimate Evening With Santana: Greatest Hits Live - Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow, the show lives up to its billing. The ambiance is of a casual gathering of musicians who are highly skilled and most entertaining. But, of course, this isn't a mere casual gathering.
Santana is a very generous performer. His ultra-talented musicians - vocalists Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay; keyboardist Chester Thompson; drummer Dennis Chambers; bassist Benny Rietveld; keyboardist David K. Matthews; Raul Rekow on congas and Karl Perazzo on percussion; guitarist-vocalist Tommy Anthony; Bill Ortiz on trumpet and Jeff Cressman on trombone - each get time in the spotlight and the audience was most appreciative.
For those - like me - who didn't know much about Carlos Santana other than songs like Evil Ways and Black Magic Woman, the show was a revelation. Of course, he did those songs, along with Europa, Maria Maria and lots more. Dennis Chambers' extended drum solo had the crowd on its feet screaming in approval. It was, as noted, like a party.
An Intimate Evening With Santana was in many ways like a Jimmy Buffett show. Sure, the songs were different, but the audience for Santana was similar to those who come to see Buffett - mostly long-time fans who know all the music, who kept the rhythm, quietly sang along, danced and had a blast.
Santana proves, too, that he is true to his time. Still sounding wonderfully like a hippie, he spoke often of peace, fulfillment and of love, a quality that makes "everything delicious."
Not incidentally, Santana and Las Vegas have taken each other to heart. A portion of the ticket price will go to the musician's Milagro Foundation, created in 1998 to benefit underserved chilidren in the areas of arts, education and health. Another portion will go to the House of Blues Foundation to support educational programs to teach young people about history, cultlure and social change. A resident of Las Vegas, Carlos Santana is a part of the city's giving landscape, always helping where he can to improve the life of Las Vegas residents.
Following his four years at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Santana's is the first residency at any House of Blues. For the opening the venue was renovated with a new $360,000 sound system and other amenities.
Tickets to An Intimate Evening With Santana range from the moderate-by-Las-Vegas-standards, $89, to the very steep, $750, for the "Up Close and Personal Packag.e" There's even a new Supernatural Margarita that's available during Santana shows, served in a souvenir glass that is priced at $16.
For tickets, please visit: http://www.houseofblues.com/tickets/eventdetail.php?eventid=73498