Santana at Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion, 9/18/2011

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Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion

Sunday, September 18

Carlos Santana makes a great argument for vintage rockers. At the ripe age of 64, Santana doesn't just continue to tour: it's as though he gets better every year. Going to a Santana concert isn't about getting crazy; it's all about a strong appreciation for exquisite talent -- which is why he can have three drummers in his band and not seem cocky for it.

A sharply dressed Carlos Santana took command of his band right from the start, pointing at the instrumentalists he wanted to hear from. He spoke each and every feeling through the strings on his guitar.

Carlos made a point of wishing happiness, health and peace to the crowd. Last time he played at this venue, he gave a 10-minute speech about Barack Obama weeks before the 2008 presidential election. Regardless of my political stance, the Obama speech at his last show here displeased me because I hadn't come to discuss politics; I just wanted to hear his music. This time he did briefly discuss the immigration issue.

"I'm not pro-immigrant nor against immigrant. I'm pro 'Don't shut the door on children's fingers,'" Carlos said. He spoke about kindness, patience and clarity. Later in the performance he added, "Let us transform fear into love," he said. "If you remember only one thing tonight, remember this: you are significant and you are meaningful and you can make a difference."

Santana's performance was as empowering as his words. Carlos, being the awesome guy that he is, brought a few people in the front row on stage to shake tambourines and maracas during "Smooth." The band brought African rhythms into play on "Jingo," and Carlos invited opening act Michael Franti on stage for "African In Your Veins." And what a hot mid-set solo by that cool chick drummer, Santana's wife Cindy. I felt like she made a few females in the audience want to learn how to play the drums. ...Or maybe that was just me.

Santana gave the Phoenix crowd a flawless, phenomenal show that lasted nearly two and a half hours. In the words of Carlos himself, "Orale ese."

Critic's notebook:

Last night: Santana at Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion.

The crowd: I'm very well aware that middle aged music fans still go out to support their favorite musicians, but it was just nice to see an entire crowd of them in person. I suppose you'd get the same crowd in terms of age at an Elton John or Jimmy Buffett concert, though.

Overheard: "That's his wife?!" - someone who couldn't believe that Santana's awesome chick drummer is married to Carlos.

Random notebook dump: To everyone at the show who was older than me (which was almost everyone): I know it was a Sunday night and it was getting late, but why would so many of you leave 45 minutes before the show was over? You missed a great rendition of "Soul Sacrifice."

Set list (incomplete):

Back In Black
Black Magic Woman
Oye Como Va
Maria Maria
Foo Foo
Corazon Espinado
Africa In Your Veins
Evil Ways
A Love Supreme
Sunshine of Your Love

Soul Sacrifice
Into the Night

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