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Pop Music Review

Santana's Fans Get a Blast of His Percussive Style

October 16, 2000|ERNESTO LECHNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you thought the massive sales and avalanche of Grammys for Carlos Santana's "Supernatural" album last year were a bit over the top, it's easier to feel good about all the hoopla after you see the man live.

Whereas the studio versions of the "Supernatural" tracks sound pleasant but not necessarily earth-shattering, Santana and his big band showed its most ferocious side in concert Saturday at the Hollywood Bowl, creating an intense musical stew that anchors itself in the timeless power of Afro-Cuban percussion.

Raul Rekow on congas, Karl Perazzo on timbales and Billy Johnson on drums form a restless tapestry of interlocking rhythms that brings the group's aesthetic closer to the combustion of a salsa orchestra than you would initially think.

On top of this solid foundation, Santana brings the fluidity of his guitar, which at this point functions as a natural extension of his wandering soul, obsessed with metaphysics, Miles Davis and the power of music to inspire and liberate.

Because the guitar and the drums are the pivotal elements at work here, it didn't really matter that most of the songs in "Supernatural" were performed by adequate but lesser vocalists instead of the original performers such as Wyclef Jean, Rob Thomas and Mexican super group Mana.

For instance, you didn't really need Dave Matthews to belt out the smoky "Love of My Life," since the tune's identity is forged by Santana's lacerating guitar licks anyway.

In fact, the guest appearances by an energetic Macy Gray and Everlast, though excellent, were also somehow distracting. The best moments of the show were delivered by the band's core members.

Now that it has a whole new set of hits to play with, the group has finally gotten rid of the monotonous improvisational segments that plagued its pre-1999 concerts.

From "Smooth" and "Corazon Espinado" to "Black Magic Woman" and "Oye Como] Va," Santana has barely enough time to deliver them all in one evening. And the invigorating influence of his newly found celebrity has added an extra layer of urgency to the vintage material.

As the evening's opening act, Everlast (the stage name used by Erik Schrody) used his time wisely, offering a judicious selection of tracks from his new album, "Eat at Whitey's." The palatable material combines elements from rock, hip-hop and rhythm and blues, marked by the vocalist's relaxed growl.

Discussing the benefits of arriving early to the Bowl, Everlast brought Santana onstage for a guest spot on the moody "Babylon Feelings."

"Yeah," the singer commented sardonically, once Carlos was done exhibiting his guitar magic. "It's hard to top that dude."

*

Santana and Everlast play Tuesday at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, 8808 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine, 8 p.m. $25.50-$65.50. (949) 855-6111.

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