Santana overpowers Rod Stewart in Consol show


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Most of this summer's double packages -- from Bey/Jay down to Styx/Foreigner -- combine artists with an obvious chemistry, history, aesthetic, ability or even common wardrobe.

The first sign of disparity in Tuesday's night combo were the Rod Stewart/Santana bootleg shirts outside Consol Energy Center. Who in their right mind puts Rod Stewart's face on a tie-dye?!

He is a glammy ol' Brit gone spandex gone Vegas strip. More suited to the tie-dye is the fiery Latin guitar wizard from San Francisco via Tijuana who still talks like a live-preaching hippie prophet. What they discuss backstage on this tour is anyone's guess.

But Carlos Santana did hint at it saying he and Mr. Stewart come from a generation before lip-synching. "We don't even know virtual. All we know is real."

They had their own wildly varying degrees of real before a crowd of about 13,000.

READ MORE: Get Rhythm Blog -- Rod Stewart: His Beginnings & The Sam Cooke Connection

Santana hit the stage hot, in front of a colorful Aztec-designed screen, with Latin fusion fired by an 11-piece band with three drummers/percussionist, horns, singers Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay and, of course, his searing guitar work burning on top. He cast his spell with extended versions of classics "Black Magic Woman" and "Oye Como Va" that had you wondering how the ice below didn't become a hot tub. God bless his 66-year-old fingers.

"Oh man, I'm having a flashback," the guitarist said. "I was here in Pittsburgh in 1970 with Janis Joplin."

Of course, he's returned many times since then, with a singular vision of moving body and soul, like he did with everything from the romantic "Maria Maria" to the festive "Foo Foo" to the tribal jams, complete with video of wild natives, to the stunning guitar instrumental "Europa."

On "Evil Ways/A Love Supreme" he let the guitar talk beautifully and then urged that we transmit a vibration to create love not fear and prevent rage incidents like the one last week in Santa Barbara, Calif. The band signed off with a turbulent "Smooth" and returned, amid images of Woodstock, with "Soul Sacrifice."

The headliner did have the benefit of not having to beat Santana at his own game. Mr. Stewart's production was a much slicker show-biz affair with a clean TV show-looking set, blondes in sparkly aqua dresses playing horns and disco opener of "Infatuation."

It was clear by his third song, the beloved folk-rock ballad "You Wear it Well," that his voice, at 69, is a fraction of what it once was. It's not Dylan-level worn; just a weakened, lower-range version of its old self that dampens some of the emotional impact of the songs. It if were a band, they’d be looking on YouTube for a replacement singer from a tribute group. His adoring fans were happy to serve, taking over the vocals at times, like on "Tonight's the Night" and "Maggie May," and his three backup singers also did their share on the choruses.

Having plundered the American Songbook, he's returned to his roots with the new album "Time," which he represented with the by-the-numbers rocker "You Can't Stop Me Now," delivered as a tribute to his father. He tapped into sentiment for the troops with the military march "Rhythm of My Heart."

Mr. Santana re-emerged to fire off some straight-ahead blues on Etta James' slow-burning "I'd Rather Go Blind." Rather than fanning those flames, Mr. Stewart oddly retreated off stage, but at least the song was suited to his range. He also got to wander off, for a suit change, during a dumb jungle drum solo, with girls in leopard skin, on "Forever Young."

The unplugged portion featured a folksy sweet "Reason to Believe" and local string players on "The First Cut Is the Deepest" and a syrupy sweet "Have I Told You Lately."

Somewhere there was a bar band doing a "Sweet Little Rock & Roller" that rocked more, and the cliched "Proud Mary," sans Rod, put the Vegas revue shtick over the top. He did some of his best work of the night kicking soccer balls on "Hot Legs."

Basically, one rock legend delivered big time Tuesday, One pleased his fan base with a hit-filled nostalgia show more suited to a casino than an arena.

smervis@post-gazette.com; 412-263-2576,


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