CD review: ‘Santana IV Live at House of Blues Las Vegas’

Santana IV Live

Emotional brawn, complexity, abandon, and elegance. Timelessness, too, has always been a fitting attribute for describing the culture of sound that is Santana. That distinction applies more now than ever. While writing about the “Santana IV” reunion album earlier this year, I have to say I wondered if these men could pull off on stage the kind of timeless magic they ignited in the studio. More than 40 years had passed since this particular group played together, but IV really does sound like the natural follow-up to “III,” from the early 1970s.

Reports emerged that they’d tour, but only for a limited number of dates, with the current lineup of Santana filling out the remainder of the calendar. Well, forget any doubts about commitment or ability. As it played out, for a little while anyway, time stood still. Quite simply, Santana burned down the House this night, and “Santana IV Live at the House of Blues Las Vegas” captures the event in the best possible light on DVD or Blu-ray, coupled with two CDs.

Carlos Santana and Neal Schon together again on guitars are a force to be reckoned with. Their fiery duel during the new, thunderous “Shake It” — just one of many examples — sends electric shivers through a body. The songs from “IV” blend seamlessly with the classics. Gregg Rolie back in the seat as lead singer and B3 player not only shows how strong he still is, but that his tenure in the Santana band best represents the Santana band.

Rolie leads the charge on “Anywhere You Want to Go” with the same gusto he gives the absolutely iconic and note-perfect Santana take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Black Magic Woman.” Rousing performances of “Soul Sacrifice” and “Jingo” kick-start the night, right away illuminating the awesome, interwoven percussion of Michael Shrieve, Karl Perazzo, and Michael Carabello. Their performances of the lovely “Samba Pa Ti” (focused on Carlos Santana’s mesmerizing, melodious guitar), the tribal-like “Batuka,” and an at once nonchalant and raging “No One to Depend On,” keep the night flying on high.

Reprising his role on “IV,” the Isley Brothers’ Ronald Isley as special guest dazzles as he sings “Love Makes the World Go Round.” But this is all about Santana — the man and the band. Carlos is one of the few who can paint colors with a guitar, and if ever there was an example of unyielding chemistry between musicians, this band is it. They define Mexican rock music. For every right reason, this package is recommended even more so than “IV.” Viva Santana!

-Tom Clarke

  • ‘Santana IV Live at the House of Blues Las Vegas’
    Label: Eagle Vision/Universal

About Tom Clarke

From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 23 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, and the 45-year timelines and ever-growing family trees of The Allman Brothers Band and Los Lobos.Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage.Tom and his wife Karen raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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