Mix of rock, jazz and blues an exercise in spiritual power

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 March, 2008, 12:00am

Carlos Santana

The Live Your Light Tour AsiaWorld-Arena

One night only

One of the world's most distinctive guitarists, Carlos Santana, filled the AsiaWorld-Arena with his soaring strains last night.

The Grammy award-winning musician, who blends salsa with rock, blues and jazz fusion, has been through the wars and back since the heady days of Woodstock, when the band mesmerised the world with an 11-minute instrumental Soul Sacrifice - an encore last night.

Countless personnel changes, rucks, reunions, reinventions and nearly 40 years later, the current 10-piece band has a slick touring professionalism matched only by its power.

Santana, 60, is as much a brand as an individual and his honed sustain from his custom Paul Reed Smith guitars is unmistakable. Last night it was cleaner and crisper than ever, cutting through the arena with Mesa Boogie amps, his licks masterfully matched by second guitarist Tommy Anthony. Playing to a near full house, the band opened with a video extolling world peace. 'This is an invitation for us to create a new reality, a new perception for this planet,' the audience was told.

The opener, 1969's Jingo, then set the pace for a blistering 21/2-hour show that was pure classic rock and Latin magic. The Live Your Light 2008 Tour is promoting Santana's career-spanning compilation album Ultimate Santana.

Combining more commercial tunes from his comeback diamond-selling Supernatural and double platinum Shaman albums with older classic material, Santana reminded Hong Kong why he is one of the biggest names on the touring circuit. Smooth, Maria Maria and Black Magic Woman are the kind of tunes that transport you back, that help define a period of your life.

The sheer pace of the 18-song set was amazing and there were no words to describe drummer Dennis Chambers' solo - you had to be there to appreciate the power and artistry.

Last time Santana was in town he denounced US President George W. Bush from the stage, but last night he was in a more mellow mood. 'This is a planet of free will,' he said. 'And with free will comes responsibility, and with responsibility comes the knowledge that we are all children of God ... One of the best miracles is to be happy and not miserable.'

His sentiments resonated with the audience, which roared, but it was the music that had the crowd on its feet. The mix of rock, jazz fusion and blues licks was an exercise in spiritual power. Sheer magic.