The bowl that holds the audience was packed, with folks standing six deep in the back. Walbridge Park across Broadway had dozens of people stretched out on blankets or sitting in lawn chairs, and yards on the street directly behind the zoo's stage were filled with fans digging the guitar god's distinctive sound.
From the moment he sauntered onto the stage -- the epitome of cool in an all-white outfit (including an awesome fedora) -- until the sweaty climax more than two hours later, he did not disappoint.
With an 11-person band that fuses Latin, rock, rhythm and blues, and jazz, Santana drew on his massive body of work to fashion a set that showcased his fiery guitar work and the music's deep, propulsive groove.
At the beginning of the show, the 64-year-old Santana gestured to band members with his hands, subtle nods, and shoulder rolls to more or less conduct the music. As the band slammed into "Love Is Me, Love Is You," early in the set, it was obvious that Carlos Santana is not just one of the best guitar players of his generation. He's also one of the greatest rock composers.
The three percussionists laid down a complex bed of beats, serving as the band's engine room and fueling a massive groove that sucked the air out of your lungs and forced your feet to move whether you wanted them to.
The set was peppered with such Santana standards as "Evil Ways," "Black Magic Woman," "Maria, Maria," and "Oye Como Va," and the pacing only flagged a bit when he played "Metatron," from his new "Shape Shifter" album.
While Santana was clearly engaged with the audience throughout the show, rapping about spirituality and reminiscing about playing in Toledo in the past, he never mentioned that the song was from his new album, and the energy noticeably dissipated as the tune seemed aimless and ill-fitting with the rest of his material. It needed an introduction and felt like a throwaway.
The place erupted when he ripped into the 1999 hit "Smooth," to close out the main set.
At least six people from the audience were pulled onto the stage to beat on tambourines and shake their maracas (among other things).
Contact Rod Lockwood at: email@example.com or 419-724-6159.