In 2009 we at The Vegas Tourist, as well as the rest of Las Vegas media, were invited to tour the new music venue at the Hard Rock Casino. The reimagined Joint was now ready for its big debut and the opening act was going to be the very first rock residency show in Las Vegas. It was the legendary guitarist himself, Carlos Santana. Fast forward 11 years and he is now over at the House of Bleus doing back to back sold-out shows.
In all those years, I never took advantage of the opportunities I had to see his show for a variety of reasons. After seeing him last night, I truly regret those missed opportunities. That should tell you what the rest of this review is going to be about. The fact that This is a Great Show in an intimate venue and it is as billed: A magical experience. Seriously!
Before I go any further, you need to know where I am coming from in my perspective. In a previous career, I owned and ran limousine companies in Phoenix, Arizona, and Minneapolis Minnesota. I was under contract with MCA Records and Columbia Studios. I was under contract. Not the company I worked for or owned, but the people that mattered (signed the contracts and paid the bills) had my private contact information as I had theirs.
For me, I saw some of the most popular and famous bands of the ’80s and ’90s literally from the stage wings. Usually, Stage left. I was there for their warm-ups and sound checks as well as the “Ok, everyone else has left the arena, let’s do a little jam session before the show” moments. Then I was there for the real show. To the point, I could feel the energy or lack of energy the audience was feeding the band on stage. Depending on how they were performing.
The first five years living here in Las Vegas, I was a chauffeur and again, I had several opportunities to handle some of the world chart-topping musical celebrities appearing on the famed Las Vegas Strip. So I am really not easily impressed and often I am even a little jaded in my views of what passes for musical headlining material these days.
Add to that, the insane prices they expect fans to pay for crappy seats to watch their musical idols perform to bad lipsynching with over modulated pre-recorded soundtracks. Not to mention the usual late getting to the stage times. The too-often breaks in the music so they can talk about how wonderful they are and of course, the mandatory breaks the main talent takes to let their band members have their very brief moment in the spotlight.
All of this activity on the stage is punctuated by the mere fact that you know by how they are playing, they are doing just that… Playing for a paycheck. Going through the motions of a concert they rehearsed and perfected each moment of their time in the bright light. They are only there to collect an easy paycheck and get back to their hotel suite. Far away from what some have told me “those nauseating and demanding fans”.
The Man, The Legend
With all that said, let me now tell you about Carlos Santa and my impression of his performance last night at the House of Blues.
Simply put: After last night, I am kicking myself for not seeing his shows earlier in its history. To be even more honest, I would have no problem seeing him a few more times this year! or sending my friends and family to see the show. It’s THAT good.
The show is titled “SiriusXM Presents An Intimate Evening with SANTANA Greatest Hits Live”. Our tickets were in the “La Zona Fiesta” area. Some may call it the mosh pit, standing room only (SRO). Its upfront of the stage and slips to the side as it heads back to the rear of the hall. I really couldn’t see a bad seat in the house. Looking around the place, it looked like everyone was close enough to hear, see and experience the event.
As they prepare to take the stage the big screen against the back wall has flashes of him through the years. This slide show continues throughout the show as they are mixed with live shots of the various band members as well as Santan himself rocking out in his own little world or often stepping aside to let another member of the band shine.
You learn very quickly that although the show is named for the man, it is more of a family event. As everyone up on stage has a part in the entertainment and everyone is equally matched in their skills, abilities and believing they as an ensemble are more than the individual. Santana freely gives the spotlight to each and every one of them as often as possible. They each gave out 150% of their talent and energy last night and it showed. Santana himself? He has no ego in the show or the music. He is just there to play his music his way.
In my career as a chauffer and seeing the musicians that I did, I can only name less than 10 that are in this unique category, maybe even only five. They don’t care about the audience in the way of numbers. It could be 5 or 5,000 and they would still be playing with the same intensity and enjoyment as they did last night. In some respects, the audience is there as background noise or in this case, as an energy source. The band was there for the party and to play music! And I mean that in the most positive way I can. They are that good as individuals as they are as an ensemble.
The Master and The Prodigy
The one thing I usually rate musicians by is their ability to step back and let the spotlight shine on new talent and Santana does that here. Very few headliners can honestly do that. Here, he gives each member of his incredible ensemble some time to shine in the light of their own while he directs everything else from the sideline. And they step up for the task without fail and you will enjoy the time. You almost forget who you were there to see!
As the concert went on, without any breaks or slowing down to talk about himself or anything else (seriously!); We moved from the pit to the back of the room to watch as Santana introduces the audience to a ten-year-old prodigy named Taj Farrant. Yikes! This tike took the stage and owned it for several songs as he even went toe to toe with the man himself for a set of ripping guitar solos.
Click here to see a YouTube video of Taj Farrant on the Ellen Show and see if you agree with me.
The best thing about last night, other than the awesome music, was the audience was pretty evenly split into age groups. True, a majority of the people in attendance were in the 50’s plus. But as for young vs old? We had them all there dancing and grooving with the beats. 20, 30, 40 years old’s, even a few who some really into their golden retirement years were jamming to the music!!
We will have video clips and pics from the show on our social media feeds over the next few days.
Final Thought? Two Thumbs Up all the way around!
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