Relatively speaking, it doesn’t matter what age he was, is or will be.
Santana plays the ever-loving Christ out of his guitar.
Every time I listen to him play, it’s like I’m in a Latin American mega-church with organs blasting, the crowd dancing and the holy father himself standing on the altar, playing a guitar that screeches into every riff with an intensity only faith can give.
His tongue lies on the fret board and his lips rest on his fingertips. The man himself is soft-spoken, but every note is a holler, every chord is a catcall.
But he’s not flirting with nobody, he’s faithful. To his guitar and his wife and drummer, Cindy Blackman.
And if there’s one thing a good Santana experience needs, it’s a rock behind the drum kit. Just listen to Live At The Fillmore (1968) if you need proof. But I digress, because when Blackman finished her solo, oh boy, Michael Shrieve:
Eat. Your. Heart. Out.
This lady is fierce in her virtuosity. A cross between jazz, punk and hard rock, she hit that drum kit as hard as John Bonham with a bad attitude. Moreover, she brought the best out of Santana just as Santana brought the best out of her—taking turns to fan each other off when either heated up past boiling point.
But it wasn’t just a tale of he said, she said; the whole band was white-hot, raring to go wherever Santana dared lead.
And if anything, they had best seats in the house. I could’ve been right up to the stage (which I was) but being on stage with a man who plays “Soul Sacrifice” like he’s dying? Forget about it.
I don’t know if he ever saw my scrawny self, waving his first two albums as I danced, but I’m sure he felt the energy of every fan like I, cheering to the heavens, solo after solo.
There was no mailing it in, which is a rather apt fear when seeing an aged classic rock guitarist. Instead, he reciprocated with everything he had. Anything less would’ve been a betrayal to his audience and to his faith.
The venue was his church, the crowd was his mass and his guitar work was his sermon.