Santana's "Corazon" at Ravinia Festival Review - Love is All There Is

The mood on Sunday evening, August 30, 2015 was joyous in the Pavilion at the Ravinia Festival, an acoustically complex and stylistically simple  indoor-outdoor theatre with a cover over 3 huge screens and an auditorium-wide stage. And the celebration was evident from the instant Carlos Santana opened with his well-beloved Woodstock intro to “Soul Sacrifice”. For the next two- plus hours, Santana rocked Ravinia, surely one of the most lovely parks for music on earth, and the summer home of Chicago's world-renowned Symphony (Chicago Symphony Orchestra). The gorgeous, smooth and sexy Latin/Carib/African jazz wailed and beat its way out over the entire park which was filled to the brim with apparently blissed –out Baby Boomers clapping, calling, swaying and bopping to the beat.


Carlos Santana on lead guitar

The Tour was entitled “Corazon” or heart in Spanish, and follows an album of the same name, the 44th album of Santana’s work. He certainly poured his heart out to the audience in the sweet complexity of his riffs, throwing back his head, his eyes closed, and strutting the stage on a strong lead. The rest of the band accompanied and showcased the star, all of the players virtuoso soloists, including two lead vocalists, Tony Lindsay and  Andy Vargas. A surprise  guest vocalist was Salvador Santana, the artists son, accompanied (dismayingly..she couldn't carry a tune and screeched alarmingly) by his girlfriend, Alex Vargas. Salvador “rapped” three songs from his own new album “Fantasy/Reality”; he sang well and was an accomplished keyboard artist, but he was merely tolerated as a break from his dad.


Santana flanked by drums and vocals

The other artists included keyboards and organ, bass, trombone, trumpet, drums , bongos and rhythm guitar.


Since at least the summer of 1969, ( “the summer of love”) when this Mexican- American headlined at Max Yazgur’s farm in upstate Woodstock, New York, Santana has been recognized as one of the world’s finest lead guitarists. Indeed, the three screens mounted on either side of and behind the stage played easily - recognized as at Woodstock clips of a bandannaed, lean and intense Santana leading hard while naked flower children cavorted nearby. The album “Santana”, released that same year hovered at the top of the charts for almost 2 years. Probably his most famous album was “Abraxas”, although the solo album he produced in 1987, dedicated to the son who shared his stage on Sunday, “Blues for Salvador”, won him his first Grammy. In 1999, an album he recorded with a number of younger artists won nine Grammy Awards and Album of the Year.


Trombonist Jeff Cressman

The crowd at Ravinia, where Santana had an excellent reception once before in 2012, was treated to continuing images of the performance itself, which were woven very skillfully along with videos as provocative as bare breasted women pounding to the beat of jungle drums! One startling display of real stage goings – on revealed piano - organ player David K. Matthews, during the long encore seemingly playing the keyboards with his face!


The band with Santana highlighted on the big screens


And what an encore it was! Four songs long, beginning with the unforgettable “Black Magic Woman/ Gypsy Queen”, it continued through Santana's spellbinding “Oye Como Va”, where the intro and mid-point guitar solos by Carlos wailed over the tops of the huge old trees and pumped seductively out across the swards of the magnificent shaded lawns and walkways of Ravinia. Two more songs later, they left the stage for the night.


Carlos wails

A total of 21 great pieces, including a spectacular version of “Tequila”, boisterously joined in by all of the audience provided a great mix of old favorites, some slightly redone songs, and newer pieces.


The audience on its feet

I hope all of the audience who didn't have tickets for pavilion seating could hear and become attentive to a wonderfully sincere outpouring of Carlos’ own, delivered in a quietly authoritative voice in little bits of remarks throughout the evenings set. He  acquainted us with his beliefs and world view, wishing us peace, love and happiness, and exhorting us to repeat these phrases,  reassuring us of their importance. He was obviously sincere, and it brought huge smiles onto the faces of the mostly older crowd who, like this reviewer, remember the time when Santana and others like him (and how few they were but they were nevertheless enough) told us that “Love is all there is”. And we heard it and knew that it was true.


Carlos Santana on lead guitar


Photo Credit Ravinia Festival / Russell Jenkins


Ravinia schedule

 Ravinia Festival Website

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