Ages of You: Santana at Merriweather

A rare appearance by both of Los Bros. Terp coupled with the celebratory presence of Jeff made our pilgrimage to a damp Merriweather Sunday evening worthwhile. Was that John McLaughlin who joined Santana briefly onstage during the encore? I couldn’t find a recent photo of McLaughlin to compare, and Santana didn’t introduce him. Whomever that guy was, he could play. Review explodes into furious critical action now!

This just in: Carlos Santana likes his job better than you like yours. Seems like, anyway, on the evidence of the 60-year-old guitar legend’s soulful 2.5-hour set at a frigid Merriweather Post Pavilion Sunday night. Also: Jam bands might not be inherently evil. What else could you call his ace 11-piece, three-percussionist-powered ensemble, effortlessly marrying spicy samba to gut-punch blues to chilled jazz to scorched-Earth rawk? This one jam band that knows how to kick them out.

The Artist Spiritually Known as Devadip took the stage in a red hoodie, the only visual cue distinguishing him from his dark-clothed fellows. He left most of the singing to Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay, but his volcanic fretwork left no doubt who was in charge . Still, his humility was refreshing, considering his career goes back to a showstopping set at Woodstock— and we don’t mean Woodstock ’94.

For “Soul Sacrifice,” video screens cross-cut close-ups of the real-time live performance with clips from “Woodstock” (the movie) of the then-unfamiliar band doing the same tune, 39 years earlier. The evergreen “Oye Como Va” had a visual accompaniment, too, of album covers and performance clips through the ages. With these exceptions, the beguilingly youthful guitarist had no time for nostalgia, cranking the hits from his career–rebooting 1999 “Supernatural” disc and after with as much fire as the Nixon-era warhorses.

And the set was a hit parade, bookended by 1969’s portentous “Jingo” and last year’s “Into the Night.” Between came “everything you wanna hear, Man, believe me,” in the words Santana used to chide a mellow-harshing boor who dared interrupt one of his agreeably loopy pontifications: “We are the architects of today,” Santana waxed, looking down at one of his arsenal of guitars. “We are the architects of a new dawn. In my mind’s eye, I see Barack Obama taking the day shift and Hilary Clinton taking the night shift.” Spoken like a man angling for a cabinet post — Shredmaster General? Fastest confirmation hearing ever.

— Chris Klimek

A slightly shorter version of this review appears in today’s Paper of Record.

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