Before the official grand opening of Carlos Santana’s new residency, the Grammy winner participated in an “earth-based ceremony.” It consisted of pouring mud into a bowl that would then be placed in the venue. Santana poured mud from Mexico (representing his hometown of Autlán de Navarro); House of Blues co-founder Dan Aykroyd poured mud from Mississippi (representing the blues); and Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang poured mud from the festival site (representing the legendary 1969 event where Santana played). The theory is that the presence of the earth will connect the performer to the places from whence the mud came. And it worked, at least symbolically. Santana’s performance was rooted in all three sources (even if it always is).
The real question remains: How does the new residency, officially titled, An Intimate Evening with Santana: Greatest Hits Live, compare to his previous Hard Rock Hotel residency, Supernatural Santana: A Trip Through the Hits? Both include (spoiler alert) his hits: “Black Magic Woman,” “Oye Como Va,” “Smooth” and “Maria Maria.” Both include some of the same video footage of Woodstock and African village dancing. Both include his trademark vibrant, percussive sound.
But the keyword for this new residency is “intimate,” and it has several delightful implications. Unlike the previous residency, which was a seated show in a much larger venue, House of Blues offers a general-admission section that is small enough to be manageable. If you want to push to the front to be in the midst of Santana and his large band—including three percussionists, two singers and a brass section—you can. And when you get up there, it will feel like a backyard dance party, albeit one populated by a bunch of conventioneer tourists. Santana’s previous elaborate set has been replaced with a simple video screen, which rightfully places the focus on the music and musicians. And the room is intimate enough that when Santana veers toward the Woodstock portion of his mud influences with a long speech about the nature of God and love, you feel like he’s talking to you. Whether this is a complaint or a compliment depends on your mud preference. ★★★☆☆