Coming off an epic performance at Chula Vista, across from his childhood hometown of Tijuana where he played night clubs as a kid, Carlos Santana and the Miraculous Supernatural Tour rolled into Los Angeles. Actually, it was the Banc of California Stadium with the support of legendary Earth, Wind & Fire, along with WAR as the opener.
I had never been to this venue, so I was interested to see how this would play out for me. I am happy to report I was very-very pleasantly surprised. The layout was great; I don’t think there was a bad seat in the house. The facility still had that brand new car feel, and it was a very pleasant place to take in a show.
This really was a full circle event for me. When I was a kid, the older kids always talked about Santana and what a great guitarist he was. Meanwhile, all of my friends my age were loving bands like AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, Rick James, Michael Jackson and of ocurse… Earth, Wind & Fire.
The first band I ever saw was at a backyard party, and the band was called the Trojan Rubber Company. They did OK for themselves as they later went on to change their name to Van Halen. My first arena show was in 1979, and it was Earth, Wind & Fire. I remember it like it was just yesterday. The date was December 8, 1979, back then the band was fronted by Maurice White and Phillip Bailey. I remember that show well, and it was the measurement I have always used to evaluate how good a band is; I compared them all to EWF.
Anyway, back to the future and Banc of California Stadium. It was a warm Saturday afternoon, and the calendar said June 18th, but you could swear it was deep in the midst of summer given how hot the tunes were about to be.
First up was WAR. I am not as familiar with them as I should be, but like most, I know their hits. Their OG lead singer was at the helm, Leroy “Lonnie” Jordan. The band was tight and their percussion section was legit. Feeling their early ‘60’s roots, WAR delighted the crowd with favorites “The Cisco Kid” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends.” The crowd got incredibly loud as they went into the signature song “Low Rider.” I only have two words to describe WAR: Professional Musicians.
As the sun dipped into the Pacific, Earth, Wind & Fire took to the stage where a very appreciative crowd was waiting. Despite a few lineup changes over the years and the loss of their Grand Poobah, Maurice White, the band was the same Earth, Wind & Fire I remember from back in the day. The sound, the dance moves, the sonic vision of this iconic band came to life.
Whenever I do a review, I compare a band’s horn section to EWF, and they did not disappoint; they were nothing less than spectacular.
The guitar and bass mixed well, and the era-defining voice of Phillip Bailey brought many in the crowd to tears when they opened to “Shining Star.”
It was as if I was a teen again as I was mesmerized by the songs that were part of my teenage years. Hit after hit drew everyone in the stadium to just soak in the majesty that is this band.
The crowd became louder and louder as the band delivered a type of performance that most had never seen. The music, the voice the artistry, the choreography; Earth, Wind & Fire remains the band success is measured against.
With the sun fully engulfed in the horizon, EWF dropped a sonic boom with “Serpentine Fire,” “Sing a Song,” “Got To Get You Into My Life” (Beatles cover), and “Devotion.” For me, a highlight was when Bailey brought the house down with “Reasons.” I felt as if I was back at my high school prom when I heard that song.
Aside the pageantry and dance moves, everyone loved the video montage being played behind the band as it depicted their journey over the years. Often concentrating on images of Maurice White together with Philip Bailey, it truly was a blast to the past and back to the future moment.
The hit parade continued with “That’s the Way of the World,” “After the Love has Gone,” “Fantasy,” “Let’s Groove,” “Boogie Wonderland,” and crowd favorite, “September.”
The performance was emotional for so many in the audience; they needed the intermission to compose themselves. That’s how good EWF was; I expected nothing less from this band.
Now that day had turned to night, it was time for the featured act, Santana!
Carlos Santana has been a major player in the music industry for decades. His music transcends genres; that’s a feat not many can say they have mastered. The video screen first showed a 22-year-old Santana as he played Woodstock and blew us all away. He was such a freak of nature; he has earned the respect of musicians, critics, and fans worldwide.
With his Woodstock into in the background, the band came out on fire to “Soul Sacrifice” and it was nothing less than unreal. With their signature sound that includes rock, Latin and jazzy rhythmic elements, Santana’s six-piece band delivered a show that was meant to be remembered.
As the crowd settled in for the two-hour epic event, Santana spoke to the fans, thanked them for their support, and he thanked WAR and EWF. In traditional Santana fashion, he spoke words of wisdom and inspiration, and talked about the living spirit within us all.
He touched on his inspirations: Bob Marley, Jerry Garcia, Eric Clapton, bluesman John Lee Hooker, pioneer John McLaughlin, and others. Santana said “I am all of them.”
Now 74, Santana garnered the energy of men half his age. With casual attire and his trademark white hat, the epic event took off. With a few interludes to catch his breath, the band also kicked out hit after hit.
The capacity crowd lost its mind to songs from the key of life, “Evil Ways,” “Black Magic Woman,” “Oye Como Va,” “Samba Pa Ti,” “I Love Music,” “She’s Not There,” “Joy,” and “Maria, Maria.”
When the music was over, the crowd did not want to leave. Luckily Santana came back for an encore to the adoring fans and treated everyone to “Put Your Lights On,” “Hang em’ High,” “Smooth,” and “Roadhouse Blues.”
It has been a minute since I have been at a show that drew this much emotion of not only the bands, but the crowd. It was definitely a show for the ages!