Last night, I took Stacey and Matthew to see Santana and the Doobie Brothers at the Dos Equis Pavilion in Dallas’ Fair Park. Sadly I didn’t see as much of the show as I would have liked. Not because I wasn’t there for every minute but because throughout the performance, there were tears in my eyes.
We arrived early. Knowing we had lawn seats, I wanted to make sure we had a decent view of the stage. Texas in July, our biggest fear was being baked in the blazing sun and, according to the forecast, we were in for a scorcher. Spreading our blankets, we bought a round of Margaritas in souvenir guitar-shaped cups and waited for the fun to begin.
As show time approached, we noticed a hefty grey mass of clouds forming overhead. At first, it seemed like a good thing, a welcome respite, blocking out the too fierce sunshine. Then we looked at the radar. Then the rain started to fall.
Being hot, the first few drops of rain seemed a relief. Then it began to pour. Lightning flashed in the distance. The modest crowd began to disperse, some leaving, the rest massing into the shelter of the pavilion. We used one of our blankets as a makeshift umbrella and hoped for the best. The rain fell harder and then harder and finally, we were drenched to the bone. We joined the crowd under the roof, laughing with everyone at our misfortune.
Twenty minutes later, the rain slowed and finally stopped. We went back to the hillside, spread our wet blanket and sat gingerly in the damp. An old man beside us lamented his wet lighter. It was a long time before anyone could smoke. “She looks good wet,” he said of my lovely wife with a laugh. He was right.
An hour and a half late, the Doobie Brothers took the stage. They were great, everything you would expect from a classic rock concert – superb musicians playing old favorites, blazing away with three guitars and I sang until my voice faded away. No Michael McDonald easy listening Doobies, these were the hard rocking Doobs, climaxing in a roaring version of China Grove. If the show had ended there, I would have gone home satisfied.
The set was struck, new drums were rolled in. The jumbotron displayed typical Santana iconography; images of peace, love and spirituality. Pictures of the crowd at Woodstock, playing in the mud, began to dominate, a memory that resonated with the rain-soaked older crowd.
Then Carlos took the stage.
As I am fond of telling people, I have been a fan of Santana for a long, long time. And for Santana fans, there is no more iconic lick than the first blistering solo of the Woodstock Soul Sacrifice. My eyes filled with tears when the drums began to play the introduction. Then the guitar burst in. I lost all control and today, the morning after, it still hasn’t been regained.
He started by playing the Woodstock set; Soul Sacrifice, Evil Ways and Love Supreme. As a life-long Santana fan, this was the most magical bunch of songs he could have played. I never dreamed I would get to see the man relive his introduction to the world at large. Ladies and Gentlemen – Santana!
He then proceeded to play every great song he ever played before, a catalog that grabbed my soul and took me to the stars. Best of all, he played nearly all of Supernatural, the album that showed the mainstream world how good he had become. Stacey danced and I tried not to cry.
I have watched lots of video of Santana playing live and what always comes across is what a generous musician he is, never afraid to share the stage or the spotlight, paying constant attention to the members of his band and making sure that we did too. He brought out the Doobie Brothers to join him for the solos of She’s Not There, a moment that proved how good the Doobie Brothers actually are, more than their own set had done.
He has incredible vocalists, which made me very happy because a guitar like Carlos’ needs a great voice beside it. His wife, the drummer, played like she has three arms. The keyboards were as blistering as the gold PRS he plays. The conga player … if you know Santana at all, you know what it means to play congas with him … was better than I could have imagined. The rest of the band … there’s no point in laying on more praise. Santana has the accompaniment he deserves.
The best Americans have always been immigrants. Anyone who doesn’t see that, doesn’t know our country’s history very well.
The evening was, for me, like a religious experience. Listening to Carlos Santana play guitar is like looking into the face of a loving, benevolent God. I still haven’t recovered. I am uplifted, inspired and humbled by the experience. I spent a great deal of money for a few hours of entertainment but, quite frankly, I would have, should have spent more. I’m ready to start following the show on the road, paying top dollar for front row seats if I could get them. It was an evening I am honored to have been a part of and I would relive it a thousand times without being wholly satisfied.
Except for the rain. I’m still wet. In a way, it was fitting, cleansing us, relieving us from the heat, uniting us as an audience having lived through a wild storm together. The crowd was amazingly diverse, a bit older than a typical crowded rock concert but filled with every kind of person I can think of. The lawn was packed from front to back, despite the rain, and everyone was kind, loving and full of fun. We were united in our soaking wet joy.
As he closed the show with Smooth, I could hardly speak. I am a better person, having spent an evening with Carlos Devadip Santana. He is the best man I have ever known of. His music is my soul.