By Chris M. Junior
His surname and guitar work define the band, but Carlos Santana is anything but greedy when he’s onstage with his group.
This is nothing new to longtime fans of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. What may come as a surprise to some is that he’s found a way to be even more generous with the spotlight.
In addition to giving extended solo time to his regular band members (the seemingly tireless percussionists Karl Perazzo and Paoli Mejias are great showmen), the gum-chewing Santana also stepped back during his PNC Bank Arts Center performance on Aug. 23 to let son Salvador do his thing on a few songs.
He blended right in with his rap-style vocal delivery and keyboard work, and so did big-voiced guest singer Alex Nester. “Fantasy Reality,” the title track of Salvador’s recently released album, benefited from the percussion work of Perazzo and Mejias, as well as the big horn blasts from trumpeter Bill Ortiz and trombonist Jeff Cressman.
Being a Santana show, of course its leader would have the opportunity to soar with his guitar. Highlights included the elegant “Europa (Earth’s Cry, Heaven’s Smile)" — which sounded hypnotic when heard from behind the New Jersey amphitheater’s lawn area, with the music hovering above the symphony of crickets from the nearby woods — and the lively “Supernatural” album track “Corazon Espinado.” “Black Magic Woman” and “Oye Como Va,” also standouts, were both played as encores.
Santana’s tour resumes Aug. 25 in Vienna, Virginia, and also includes shows in Maryland (Aug. 26 in Baltimore), Michigan (Aug. 28 in Clarkston) and Illinois (Aug. 29 and 30 in Highland Park) before the band settles in for an extended run at the House of Blues in Las Vegas that begins Sept. 16.