Concert Reviews

Santana Concert Review | MGM Northfield Park | 06.25.23

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist Carlos Santana stopped at the Northfield MGM Center Stage on June 25 as part of his “1001 Rainbows Tour”. The tour includes the band, appropriated named Santana, performing music from its entire 50-year library. The 1,820-seat MGM Center Stage has an amazing sound system and lighting and is the perfect venue for this performance!

Santana developed his fusion of rock and roll and Latin American Jazz after working with John McLaughlin and the Jazz Fusion band “The Mahavishnu Orchestra” in 1973. His iconic combination of rock and roll paired with the aforementioned Latin American Jazz has moved listeners physically and spiritually for over the past five decades.

As in all the Santana shows that I’ve seen in the past, this one was equally captivating with its rhythmic beats and the effortless mastery of the members’ skills. Carlos Santana is a very spiritual man and believes that everyone on the planet is a valued human being and that everyone is meant to live in peace and harmony. As he stated during the show, spirituality is something he experienced and embraced in the 60s and he continues to believe in it today. He and his amazing band pushed this energy throughout the show and by engaging with the audience. It was a great experience watching the enthusiasm and skill of Santana and the talented musicians and vocalists bring the audience into this joyful and moving experience.

Carlos Santana walks onto the stage with confidence, chewing gum (nonstop) and playing guitar so effortlessly, as if his guitar is a part of his body. His experienced band not only played with amazing talent, but they played as one and under the direction of the bass player, Benny Rietveld. Rietveld, an alumnus of The University of Hawaii, has been music director and bass player for Santana for 25 years.

The other members deserve prominent mention. There’s not enough room in the wordcount to do everyone justice, but starting with Karl Perazzo, a percussionist that has been with Santana since 1991, surrounded himself with a huge set of mostly percussion instruments; like congas (no snare or bass drum). Much of his equipment has been customized by him.

Centered on stage is Santana’s wife, Cindy Blackman Santana, who played a huge collection of set drums. She contributed a more traditional Western sound to the band.

Grammy-nominated Paoli Mejias is the second percussionist, joining Santana in 2013. Originally from Puerto Rico, Mejias has performed with many salsa and jazz artists such as Tito Puente, Dave Samuels, Dave Valentín, Paquito d’Rivera, and Chick Corea.

Tommy Anthony covers both guitar and vocals. He has been quoted as saying, “I didn’t find music, music found me”. Anthony has been with Santana for 17 years.

Ray Greene has covered vocals for Santana since 2016. Greene has been a Pop and R&B artist and played with artists such as Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, and Rick James.

David K Mathews played keyboards including piano, electric piano, Hammond organ, and synthesizers. Mathews worked with artists like Taj Mahal, Dave Mathews (Dave Matthews Band frontman; no relation), John McLaughlin, Huey Lewis, and too many others to list here. He also appeared on many late-night shows.

Vocalist Andy Vargas started to tour as a singer for Santana on the Supernatural World Tour (1999 – 2000). In addition, Vargas created the Andy Vargas Foundation to assist in helping to inspire, educate and mentor underserved youth in the music industry.

Santana performing “Smooth” at MGM Northfield Park on 06.25.23 {Video courtesy of YouTube user Kenz Vidz}

Santana performed many of his best-known songs. Classics like “Evil Ways,” “Black Magic Woman” and many more! A total of 21 songs including a few covers like the Doors “Road House Blues” and ending with “Smooth,” a track he recorded with Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas and was the #1 played song on FM airwaves in 1999!

The sound was excellent, and the lighting was exceptional. Many mid-sized venues often have simple stage lighting but the “1001 Rainbows Tour” was loaded with well-orchestrated lighting that complemented the artists and music. Three large video screens, two on either side of the stage, and one larger screen centered behind the stage, showed close-ups of the band members and the lighting well-coordinated with the individual shots. A rapidly changing target for the video and lighting crew was very well executed. Also, videos of various crowds filmed all over the world were shown on the center monitor in unison with the individual songs being performed.

The show was high energy from beginning to end. All the musicians and singers maintained a solid upbeat performance and were highly engaged with the audience. A very exciting show and well worth the price of admission. Santana has always been a must-see performer, In the 50 or so years that I’ve seen him perform, Santana continues to be legendary.

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