Carlos Santana's endless journey goes on
Posted June 1, 2012
LAS VEGAS - Carlos Santana sits in his dressing room here at the House of Blues. But, as always, the mind of this 1960s icon is on a ceaseless cosmic journey.
At the moment, he's discussing how he'd like to have his own radio show.
"I'd call it 'Required Listening for Planet Earth,' " says Santana, 64. "I'd play (Bob) Marley, Marvin (Gaye), Louis Armstrong. It'll rearrange people's molecular structures, make them more benevolent."
In a far-ranging conversation before performing An Intimate Evening With Santana, a new two-year residency inked with Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Santana touches on everything from dream collaborators (try Lady Gaga) to the Native American inspiration for his new instrumental album, Shape Shifter ("Its message is, 'You cannot break my spirit' ").
As a leading light of San Francisco's hippie scene, Santana comes by his spiritual leanings honestly.
"I'm living with the principles of that era, of my friend (promoter) Bill Graham and of Woodstock," he says, scooting forward on a couch and sitting ramrod straight. "Hippies had power, their ideals were real. So was their message. Look at (John) Lennon's Imagine. That's a hymn for today."
If Santana sounds upbeat, his circumstances explain the mood.
He and his new wife (and former drummer) Cindy Blackman moved to Las Vegas in 2010, in the middle of the guitarist's first multi-year Strip residency at the Hard Rock Café. While he misses the San Francisco area, Santana praises the "clean feeling" of his new desert home and the warmth of the tourists from around the world who attend his shows.
"I'd said I'd never do a run in Vegas, but that was just fear," he says. "Look at Nat (King Cole) and (Frank) Sinatra, they did it. I'm inspired by this place."
Kudos also roll in for the venue hosting his greatest-hits show. The intimate House of Blues theater upgraded the sound system for its new headliner, and the seat-free floor area promotes dancing to the Latin-tinged rock set that includes classics (Black Magic Woman to Oye Como Va) and more recent hits (from Supernatural as well as the new ethereal album).
"It's like I'm playing in my own living room," says Santana. "It's a lab for alchemy. I'm hoping to invite other musicians to join me on stage."
Speaking of that, Santana will play six East Coast dates in late July with the Allman Brothers Band, and he's hoping for a jam session with Gregg Allman as well as his guitar aces Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes. But with a twist.
"Let's not do Santana or Allman Brothers, let's do Marvin Gaye, let's do Michael Jackson's The Way You Make Me Feel. We're musicians and all music is open to us, like when Miles (Davis) did Michael's Human Nature," he says.
Santana may be associated with a very particular sound, but his personal musical tastes run the gamut. Among the musicians he'd still like to collaborate with are Sting, Andrea Bocelli , Prince and … Gaga ("I'm serious, if the song is right, absolutely," Santana says).
Sound check is calling. He picks up one of his gleaming Paul Reed Smith guitars and rips through a muddy solo. The roadies smile. In an hour, a few thousand people will file in and attend his church of blues-based rock 'n' roll.
Santana has on many occasions said he'd like to one day retire to Hawaii and be a preacher. But, guitar in hand, he's already got that gig right here in Las Vegas.
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