Santana: Live at Montreux 2011

Santana: Live at Montreux 2011

Santana: Live at Montreux 2011

directed by Chris Cowley

starring Carlos Santana

Eagle Rock Entertainment

Somewhere around “Black Magic Woman” Carlos Santana hits that classic chord we’ve all heard and I think “My God, he’s held that note since Woodstock!” With 25 albums under his belt, this guy is the poster boy for Latin rock and has never sounded better. This astonishing two-DVD concert from the 2010 Montreux jazz festival packs in over three hours of material, with pretty much all of it top caliber. Backing him up is a fluid sea of band members, guests, and fellow stars. Where to begin? Well, the first big surprise is a rocking cover of AC/DC’s “Back In Black.” Never mind the jarring cross-cultural high-concept hipness, this a GREAT cover of a song that just rolls out of left field and blows you away. Another great cover is Eric Clapton’s “Sunshine of Your Love.” This is less surprising, yet every bit as good as you might hope: one guitar god covers another, capturing the essence of the original while taking us deeper into the song with effortless ease. Naturally Santana’s big hits are here, besides “Black Magic Woman” you’ll groove to “Oye Como Va” (technically a Tito Puente cover itself), “Duende,” “Evil Ways,” and “Guajira.”

The fast cutting and steady stream of guests make it hard to identify the band members, much less count them. You can cheat and look inside the jewel box where I count 10 backing players, and they support at least three drum kits, a small armada of synthesizers, a bass, and a small but tight brass line. No rest for the wicked; if you’re not playing your main instrument pick up some bells or a tambourine or gourd and make some noise. The show is so long there are two drum solos, one by band regular Dennis Chambers and one by Cindy Blackman Santana. With her Angela Davis hairdo and scrunchy facial expressions, she’ll take you as close to the Sixties as we can get in these pre-time-travel days. Everyone looks cool, but Santana looks best of all in his white brocade vest, white hat, and third eye jewel. Everyone sticks to the music, occasionally a few words are muttered, and there’s a short speech about ending war and disbanding armies. Hope that goes well.

The emphasis is on the concert experience, besides some sound options there are just three featurettes: a rambling interview with Santana, a more coherent one with Ms. Santana and the de rigueur “making of” video. Read the booklet if you care, but crank the music — this sounded great on my giant three-inch “Insignia” brand speakers; with a real stereo I think you could do some serious ear damage.

Eagle Rock: www.eaglerockent.com

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