Mr. Smooth

If you can't afford the best tickets, then invest some money in a pair of binoculars.
Learning this the hard way, I was better prepared for this summer's concerts. The first of the season was Carlos Santana..

As is the case with most concerts that I go to, 80% of the people were in their 40s or 50s; a strong hint that my music tastes are quite anachronistic! I made a mental note of trying a little harder to listen to some music from 'my' generation. I just finished reading Kill Your Idols, a cynical relook at classic rockers and famous rock albums. The new generation of rock critics (DeRogatis, Marc Weingarten, Robert Christgau) tear the albums to shreds and I am filled with new-found scepticism. Among the more poignant passages talked about, " ... overpriced tickets and hordes of fans too eager to buy the dumb merchandise, when not even half original band was touring..." Wowing not to succumb to such nostalgic seductions, I entered the DTE Music theatre; it's a great venue - parking is free! You climb up Pineknob hill and the steep grassy slope looks down on lawn, then the expensive seats (Lennon might have called it 'where the rich jangle their jewelry') and then onto the semicircular stage.
I almost did not make it to the concert. I meticulously followed the directions and thanks to DTE's website's twisted sense of direction I found myself at The Palace of Auburn Hills (home of the Pistons and a music venue when they are not playing) and there there were 3 cars in the parking lot. Clearly, not the right place! After readjusting my coordinates and managing to get off the right exit on I-75, I found myself stuck in a massive traffic-jam. For the first time, I was happy to get stuck in a traffic-jam! At least, I was on the right road and there were a bunch of folks who were going to be late for the 7pm concert.

Los Lonely Boys
The first opening act was Salvatore Santana (Carlos's son), who studies at UCLA and apparently tours with his Dad during the summertime. Thanks to the traffic-jam I was late by about 15 mins and by the time I managed to trample over the people sleeping on the blankets and settled down at a 'good' vantage point - Salvatore Santana was waving goodbye. So I missed the opportunity to trash the son with a famous dad!
The real opening act was the Grammy winning Los Lonely Boys and they were great! Actually, only Michael Garza the lead guitarist is great, the bassist and the drummer are all right. Their songwriting skills are really poor and the rhymes are very contrived and often silly. For example from Nobody Else this gem:
I can't stand to be alone
Cause I go crazy when you're gone
You're the one that makes me whole
I pray you've known this all along
Everything is gonna be alright
I wanna be with you all of my life

Hilarious! What the did not have in terms of songwriting, they made up in terms of the music and there were some really fantastic jams. They also did the usual monkey tricks of jumping around with the guitars, playing behind their necks, etc., which are not that hard but who's complaining? There are striking parallels between Santana (the band) and the Los Lonely Boys. Both are(were) bands of brothers/relatives, Hispanic groups, have songs with Spanish lyrics and have a shrieking high-pitched lead guitarist. For a moment, you would believe that the LLB's lead was Carlos Santana; still Michael Garza is not Santana, not yet. They have some cool riffs and I loved this particular riff (see the video below).

Dressed in colors that suit a Jamaican reggae star more than an aging rocker from Woodstock, the hatted Santana made his way on the stage around 9pm with his trademark high-pitched guitar with Jingo. The crowd erupted - what a start!

Midway into his set, when quite a few people were already drunk with the copious amount of alcohol, Santana gave his anti-Bush spiel. There were cheers from the crowd, but rest of America does not seem to be listening to him, or the Dixie Chicks, or Bono. Then he started talking about '... achieving real Peace in our lifetime, if we only believe...' and other platidinous remarks. Then the screen had some 3D doves fly out and images of people around the world. Age has finally caught up with Carlos Santana. He was not making much sense; however other fans seem to agree with whatever crap he was talking and gave him a standing ovation at the end the 10 min speech; but Santana does believe in what he says, 50c from each ticket are donated to his Milagro foundation, but I would suggest: 'Santana do, but don't talk!'.
Thankfully, there were no more speeches from him for the rest of the night and the music in the second half was fantastic. I must give Santana credit for letting other musicians share the limelight, especially the musicians who seem to have the two-bit parts. We all know that he does not sing much these days and was mostly in the dark, while the light shone on other musicians during the songs. For the first time, I saw the 'unknowns' being given the stage for more than the 'one solo' in the concert. The brass section was really good and so was the drummer. Then he called the Los Lonely Boys to play on a song alond with - the biggest surprise of the day - Ray Manzarek of the Doors. The all came up onstage to play on two songs. It was great to hear Ray's tinkly keyboard on Evil Ways (see video below). Fantastic!
On the whole, this concert was better than the Eric Clapton concert because Santana did not treat this as just another stop on the tour. EC came, played and left - Santana connected and did three songs for the encore.
Hope some of you can catch him on tour this summer. Next up is: Mark Knopfler on the 8th.

Video clips
*Los Lonely Boys - Great solo by Michael Garza.
*Evil Ways - Carlos Santana and guest appearance by the legendary Ray Manzarek.

Santana Concert Set List
DETROIT, MI 6/25/05



Anirudh said...

You lucky dog!

Ajay said...

Copy that. Wish I was there. Actually, I wish I was at Live8 London. Seeing the Pink Floyd Reunion. In the Flesh.

Hirak said...

And also Cream and the complete band too!

Sinfully Pinstripe said...

Aaaah! lucky you! And all that we in Bangalore have been getting is bloody Engelbert Humperdinck!

And put up the knopfler ticket snap too, ok?

Anirudh said...


Shut up! Just shut up!

My doctor's advised me to stop visiting your blog for fear of a heart attack due to jealousy.

bluesbawa said...

yeah lucky hirak !
its cool...
but do u get dreams of clapton teaching you chords ?
I had this weird dream of clapton all burnt out and fed up with playing the guitar and all he did when we were jamming was play barre chords!
So i asked him whats wrong and he said he dont have that fire no more.
So i said at least teach me some of them barre chords...
so he smiled and the jam continued

Anonymous said...

I heard Eric Clapton is coming in August to give a concert in Bangalore, but I can't find any info on it.
Anybody knows ?

Hirak said...

The official website is pretty accurate, though when it comes to India who never know what's going to happen at the last moment.
Have had too many concerts change venues at the last moment and also cancelled.
Keep your fingers crossed!

Truth B Known said...

Couple of points:
1. You are a moron for not getting there on time to sse the opening act. Not good for a music reviewer. Also, if you pick up the latest double Santana DVD at Montreaux 2004, you will find that Salvatore Santana shares keyboard chores with Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock and Tower of Power's organist Chester Thompson. He also plays some credible piano to support Ravi coltrane, wayne Shorter and others on these sessions. 2. The Garza brothers, aka Los Lonely Boys, are all excellent musicians. From my personal perspective of having seen Hendrix 6 times and Cream 3 times, I must assert that Los Lonely Boys deserve to be called the Latino Cream. That is how good their ensemble and indivisual playing is. If you did not hear that, something is wrong with what you are smoking or drinking or with your hearing.

Hirak said...

@Truth be known

1. I would like to blame my moronity on the traffic. I will check the CD out to give Salvatore a good look, thanks for that.

2. I did agree that LLB had really good music, it was their song writing that suffers. I still feel that Garza is much better than the rest of the band!