After performing thousands of concerts around the world, Carlos Santana
has set his sights on Las Vegas. Beginning in May 2012, the guitarist will begin a two-year long run of shows at the House of Blues located at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. Called "An Intimate Evening With Santana: Greatest Hits LiveYesterday, Today & Tomorrow
," the first show is on May 2nd and will involve what has been described as an "interactive intimate
" atmosphere where fans will truly be able to get close and personal with Carlos. The first series of shows runs through June 3rd and then there is a break before they resume on September 12th and end on November 11th. Performances will start up again in 2013.
A press conference was held at the West Hollywood House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard to announce the shows. Several of the key players spoke in advance of Santana and here are some of their comments.
, General Manager of the House of Blues in Las Vegas, had this to say about the upcoming shows. "House of Blues Las Vegas is excited, ecstatic and ready and waiting for Mr. Santana to come and play. I want to tell you the excitement in Las Vegas is like never before. We've got the most intimate setting in Las Vegas for this kind of an act and it's a perfect fit.
, VP of Marketing, Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, added his thoughts. "We're absolutely thrilled to welcome Carlos Santana to Mandalay Bay and more importantly to the larger family of MGM Resorts. We believe entertainment is at the heart of what we do at MGM Resorts and adding Carlos to our lineup is an incredible asset and an incredible component.
House of Blues Entertainment CEO Ron Bension
said, "This is a special day for a special artist in announcing a two-year run at a very, very special venue. You've heard the word intimate and it really is kind of the title of the concert and we really do mean that. The House of Blues in Las Vegas is probably one of the greatest concert rock halls in America. The worst seat in that building is probably as good as anybody's best seats. We reconfigured to make it even more intimate and we've actually reduced the capacity for these shows by about 25 percent from 1,600 down to about 1,200. And it's gonna be just a really wonderful evening and people will be within feet of the stage and dancing and partying are both encouraged all night long. We won't have to encourage it too much because it's going to be a great, great night.
And Santana's manager, Michael Vrionis
, closed the conference and mentioned, "We're very, very thrilled to be coming to the House of Blues in Las Vegas. It's Carlos's home and he looks forward to playing there. We're looking very forward to the venue; it's going to be great and the music is gonna be fantastic.
UG: Can you talk a bit about playing in Las Vegas?
It's an honor to be in the House of Blues because there's a group of entities that is deeply committed to honoring the best contribution that the United States has given to the world: Americana music. Americana music is deeply invested in the blues, pre-Colombian music and gospel. If you ask Frank Sinatra who he listened to he will say Billie Holiday. If you ask Billy Holiday who she listened to she'll say Louis Armstrong. You get the point. And if you ask me who I listen to, I listen to anyone and everyone from this planet who does what they do from the heart.
So by playing at the House of Blues at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, you're kind of honoring those musicians who came before you?
"Americana music is the best contribution that the United States has given to the world."
We love to honor our gift to come to the House of the Blues and create an atmosphere into our laboratorya spiritual, sensual laboratory where we can create the alchemy of giving people something beyond entertainment. Now don't get me wrongentertainment is pretty incredible in Las Vegas. I think there's about 12 to 20 Cirque de Soleils and each one is a true testament of physical perfection and accuracy. Like the most incredible athletes that you can think of like Jesse Owens or Carl Lewis or a baseball, football or basketball player. They're really committed, females and males, to a physical discipline. That's entertainment and I say it's incredible.
Your show at the House of Blues is not going to be like that.
We deal with something a little differentwe deal with the Holy Ghost. That's some different kind of muscles. The muscle most important to the Holy Ghost is imagination. The muscle most important that human beings are being given and you need to utilize this and if you don't you become twisted and thinking like a victim. Willingness to allow and allow willingness will give you the same ingredient alchemy that Jesus did and Mother Teresa did or the Vision of Guadalupe. To create miracles is not something beyond your capacity.
You want to create miracles with your performances at the House of Blues?
For me the miracle is to become like a shape shifter. The same element that women utilize when they give birth to a baby: They take a deep breath [Carlos sucks in a big breath] and you relax and you trust that it's alright already and the baby's gonna be perfect.
You already know it's going to be perfect?
It's the same thing when you're playing music; real music; memorable music. So we plan to honor the Holy Ghost in women. We plan to not rely on therapists, analysts, psychiatrists or people who supply expensive drugs because we don't need what Michael Jackson was needing nor what Whitney Houston was needing. We all respected them.
Will you be playing with any special guests?
We need to activate the light inside that was given to us and we plan to utilize that by inviting also [during a] week geniuses of America. Like Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Harry Belafonte, Patti LaBelle or Aretha. Ladies who as soon as they open their mouth, you get chills and you know they're not lip-synching and they don't need choreography. Because what they do is they give you something that is called a voice. Like Whitney Houston, when she sang you heard a legion of angels and not just one angel. So we plan to invite African people, women and men, Angelique Kidjoe and many, many sisters and brothers. People from India and people from South America; American Indians. Whether it's Andreas Bocelli or Placido Domingo, I'm not dropping names. I'm just telling you what's available to us to present to you.
The performances at the House of Blues sound pretty amazing.
We want to say thank you from the center of my heart and we invite you to come and witness something that is beyond entertainment or show business. It's called willingness to allow the Holy Ghost from that through us to you.
Can you talk a little bit about the new album, Shape Shifter?
Most people have been requesting the Caravanserai and The Swing of Delight and the Blues For Salvador element with no guests. They want to hear the Mexican play the guitar and that's it [laughs.] So I said, OK, I'm gonna give you a Mexican playing the guitar.
Where do the roots of the songs on Shape Shifter come from?
The Mexican is really deeply invested in pre-Colombian African and pre-Colombian American Indian music. So when you hear the new CD we really honor that which we love, which is pre-Colombian and African music.
That music influences the types of songs and harmonic content on the album?
"The muscle most important to the Holy Ghost is imagination, the muscle most important that human beings are being given and you need to utilize this and if you don't you become twisted and thinking like a victim."
Yes. The one person that took me out of the B.B. King galaxy and universe and sphere was Gabor Szabo. He was an Hungarian gypsy and because of him I was able to listen to Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell. Something took me away from my first heart, which was Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker and Lightnin' Hopkins, which is where Jim Morrison, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan come from. You know?
Gabor Szabo was the musician who pointed you down a different road?
When I heard Gabor Szabo it ignited me into a whole other place to understand more closely the vocabulary of Charlie Christian and Wes Mongtomery. And at the same time honoring the resonance of Ali Akbar Khan and American Indians.
Shape Shifter refers to Native Americans who can turn into animals?
The CD, Shape Shifter, it really says it in the name. Here's the two words to create alchemy for any great guitar player. If you don't access and utilize these two words, you're like a dead duck in the water: Willing to allow and allow willingness. Stay open. When you stay open you can hear from Segovia to Kirk Hammett. If you don't stay open, Well only this is good and this is not good. Then you're like, Dude, what the hell's wrong with you? Grow up and expand, accept and transmit the unknown.
What kinds of guitars have you pulled out for this one besides the PRS?
Strats and acoustic nylons. Because people don't know that my favorite musician for acoustic nylon string is Manias de Plata. I can write one TV show on just him alone. He was Picasso's favorite guitar player.
Yeah, Manito Zaplata was incredible, man. So I know from Manias de Plata to Paco de Lucia, all of it, I understand that language. I may not articulate it as well as they do [laughs] but it doesn't stop me from not being able to understand it and share some of that passion.
Your first instrumental album was Love Devotion Surrender with John McLaughlin back in 1973. Do you think now, I could have played those songs better? How different is that guitarist who played on that album and the guitarist playing on Shape Shifter?
I don't think like that. I read that John Lennon thought like that a lot. That he always had, I wish I could have done something different. When I do it, I let it go. I really let it go and say, I did my best with what I had and where I was and I let it go. I don't think like that thank God. We just did another concert with my brother John McLaughlin at the same time we did this new DVD that just came out, Live at Montreux. The night before we did it with John McLaughlin and the next night with brother B.B. King, the chairman of the board B.B. King. So what I learned is there's a really beautiful reality based on what Stevie Wonder's song says, There's a place in the sun.
So you embrace all styles of guitar?
There's a place in the sun for every guitar player male or female practicing in their garage right now. Just don't go into the competition; go into complement. Don't go into competition or comparing. Go into complementing. If you go into the other two, you're gonna get your ass wupped and it's gonna be a lesson in humility. If you go into complementing then you can play with John McLaughlin, Derek Trucks and Jeff Beck and you're gonna hold your own. But if you go over there like a gunslinger to try to compete or compare, you're gonna get your ass kicked.
As you were rehearsing for the Live at Montreux DVD and listening to all your old songs, did any of them take you back the moment when you actually recorded them?
"There's a place in the sun for every guitar player male or female practicing in their garage right now. Just don't go into the competition; go into complement."
Yes, thank you for saying that. I think that is something that is important to grasp. The first time I played Black Magic Woman was in this soundcheck almost like in a parking lot in Fresno. I remember Gregg Rolie brought it in and I knew Peter Green but I hadn't heard that song. Peter Green was my friend already but for some reason I hadn't heard that song. And the way I did it I said, Well, I've been listening to Wes Montgomery so I'm gonna put the intro a little bit of Wes Montgomery with a little bit of Otis Rush. I mean that's how I thinka little bit of Miles Davis here, a little bit of John Lee Hooker there and some Peter Green here. Knowing I'm already going to sound like Carlos Santana anyway.
You do try and capture the emotion of first playing a song when you've played it for the millionth time?
So yeah, when I play Oye Como Va or Blues For Salvador or the next song, I put myself in the very first time I got in bed under the sheets with it.
Because the focus will be on guitar rather than on vocals for Shape Shifter, do you feel you need to step up your game as a guitarist?
No, I'm really comfortable where I am and who I am now. When I'm in the studio with Matt Serletic or Howard Benson, I feel I know when to defer to them and when to confer with them and when to step up. Actually I started Shape Shifter in '97, in '99, so I've been doing it and just putting it on the side. Strangely enough like most of my music it sounds not dated. It sounds like, Wow, it sounds like he just did it right now. Well, thank you, that's a great compliment. I'm not afraidkey wordto be the guitar player or work with the engineer and be the producer. I understand that whatever role I play, I need to beoh, and here's the one you can put in big words in the article: Being Present in Love.
That is how you approach your music?
This work keeps being present with love; intimacy. Into-me-see. Now people say, What does that mean? It means that you can go around the block but it doesn't mean you know the person. To really know the person you gotta get inside the sheets spiritually speaking.
Interview by Steven Rosen