“We’re still unabashedly hippies and we truly believe that music can change the world and suffuse it with the light of change,” said Carlos Santana on the eve of his concert, F1 Rocks with Vladivar. On Sunday night, Greater Noida witnessed a supernova as Santana took the stage, filling this part of the cosmos with their brand of music and light.
The evening started off on a singularly mellifluous note, with Soulmate from Shillong opening for the god of guitar. Their blues sound, particularly the dynamism of guitarist Rudy Wallang and vocalist Tipriti Kharbangar, set the mood for the evening. In the middle of their performance, there was the sudden unmistakable twang of a PRS guitar and the crowd rushed towards the stage. For one song, Santana wordlessly came on and let his guitar do the talking before going back off-stage. Despite their natural stupefaction, Soulmate managed to keep on playing. However, once the Mexican virtuoso returned backstage, they kept exhorting him to return. Their perseverance was to be rewarded later.
At 7 pm on the dot, Santana and his band came on stage. From Black Magic Woman to Maria Maria, (Da le) Yaleo, Corazón Espinado and A Love Supreme, the band moved from one song to the other, with a playlist that recounted their four-decade history. Whether it was David Mathews creating a waterfall of notes on the keyboard, or the relentless tattoo of beats by percussionists Karl Perazzo and Raul Rekow, who played everything from the bongo to the conga and the timbale, or the clarion call of trumpeter Bill Ortiz and trombonist Jeff Cressman, the music was a meeting of the minds, the badinage between the instruments flawless.
Drumming duties were divided between lead drummer Dennis Chambers, Perazzo and an energetic, superbly technical solo by Santana’s wife, jazz percussionist Cindy Blackman. Then of course there was the anomaly that is Carlos Santana, whose guitars are an extension of his body, playing them is as natural to him as breathing. While vocals were provided by Tom Lindsay, Andy Vargas and Santana himself, the latter invited Kharbanga back on stage to sing with the band, which she did with glee, her voice capable of powering a city block. After being submerged in a tsunami of sound for two-and-a-half hours, the crowd emerged from the ground, but we doubt unchanged. “Supernatural” indeed.