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Santana shows Latin soul

Mexican-American guitarist’s performance fit for a legend

Carlos Santana, the 63-year-old lead guitarist of rock band Santana, transcended all kinds of barriers ― including age, language and nationality ― during his live concert in Seoul on Wednesday evening.

Appearing on the Olympic Gymnastics Gymnasium’s stage with his trademark black top hat, black adidas tracksuit bottoms and matching short-sleeve T-shirt, Santana began playing at 8:00 p.m. sharp with his first song “Open Invitation” and never left the stage until he finished the third encore, “Love, Peace and Happiness,” at around 10:30 p.m.

While other older famous guitarists from overseas frequently finish their concerts in less than two hours, Santana performed for two and a half for his enthusiastic Korean fans who kept their cheering up throughout the show.

Considering he was in Singapore on March 7 and will be in Perth on March 13 as part of his Asia-Pacific tour, his energy in Seoul was more than expected.

The stadium was filled with about 5,000 fans, more than half of them in their 40s and 50s and some of them coming with their teenage or 20-something children.

During the first song “Open Invitation,” a series of images of Korea on the screen depicted the lives of Koreans in the past and the present, with weighty beats by two drum kits helping the listeners feel the dynamic changes of the country.

The wrinkled fingers of his left hand swiftly moving on the neck of his yellow Paul Reed Smith signature guitar caught 5,000 pairs of eyes. The tone of his guitar was smooth and glass-like, as always.
Carlos Santana, the lead guitarist of Latin rock band Santana, performs at the Olympic Gymnastics Gymnasium in Seoul on Wednesday. (Access Entertainment)
Carlos Santana, the lead guitarist of Latin rock band Santana, performs at the Olympic Gymnastics Gymnasium in Seoul on Wednesday. (Access Entertainment)

He moved right on to “Black in Black,” “Gypsy Queen” and “Oye Como Va,” with Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay on vocals, Tommy Anthony on second guitar, Raul Rekow on percussion, Benny Rietveld on bass, David Mathews on keyboards, Dennis Chambers on drums, a trumpet and a trombone.

“Last time when we were here (15 years ago), we played outside at the park. Today we took time to walk around and this is so beautiful,” Santana told the audience, after playing the first four songs.

“This is my family,” said the musician, inviting a roar of cheers.

He continued to say that he will direct the heated energy to “the females,” saying “it is important to make your eyes twinkle and happy.”

Then came the well-known guitar riffs of “Maria Maria.” Audience members instantly stood up, with some of female fans dancing to the familiar rhythms and melodies. Emotionally charged, Santana yelled, “Kiss your girlfriend and boyfriend!”

As if he had been missing his drummer wife, Santana called out her name and Cindy Blackman came up on stage and sat at the drum set to perform “Corazon Expinado” with him. At the fade-out of the song, she continued a drum solo for over five minutes, frantically beating the snare, high hats and tom toms, with both feet drumming the bass drum.

During the show, Santana also revealed his beliefs ― appreciating “the moment,” thanking the audience with humble words and urging them to love one another.

“You’re made with only two things, light and love ... No religion, no politics. We’re one family,” the musician said with his eyes closed.

He also said South Koreans have to work with “the other Koreans” and pray for them for peace.

“Love is the only answer.”

The concert reached its climax when his famous song “Smooth” started with his guitar intro, immediately after finishing “Sunshine of Your Love.”

He thanked the audience by bowing for quite a long time to say goodbye. He returned to the stage in a matter of seconds and played “Soul Sacrifice,” “Bridegroom” and “Love, Peace and Happiness.”

By Kim Yoon-mi (yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)
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