The first time I saw Carlos Santana was in 1976 when I saw the movie Woodstock - Three Days Of Peace And Music playing at a rundown cinema in Toronto which specialized in second run movies. There were about 20 or 30 people scattered throughout the audience and the air was redolent with a variety of marijuana smells. There was a particular brand of homegrown making the rounds in Toronto in those days that smelled like muddy peanut butter, and its distinctive scent is indelibly inscribed in my memory as being associated with Santana.
It might also be what's responsible for why I can't help but think of his music as dream-like and trance-inducing. Even in the straightest of atmospheres, the mixture of rhythms and melody that Santana and his band laid down for that concert were conducive to letting your thoughts wander. In the years since then I've seen and listened to various bits and pieces of his music, but somehow or other I've never had the opportunity to either see or attend an entire concert, and have always felt I've missed out on an experience.
Well, thanks to Eagle Rock Entertainment we now have the opportunity to take in what appears to me to be the ultimate Santana concert. On February 21, 2012, they released Greatest Hits: Santana - Live At Montreux 2011, a two-disc DVD set of Santana and the current incarnation of his band playing material that spans the nearly 50 years of his career.
Checking in at just over 200 minutes in running time, including interviews with Santana and his wife Cindy Blackman Santana and a behind the scenes glimpse at the concert, the two-disc set really brings home how enduring both he and his music have been. Unlike most of his surviving contemporaries from the 1960s, Santana spent long periods of time flying under most people's radars. Occasionally a song like "Black Magic Woman" or "Evil Ways" would make it onto the radio but then he'd seemingly vanish again. It wasn't until the last decade, with the rise in awareness of so-called world music, that his brand of Latin tinged rock and roll really began to be appreciated by the more mainstream elements of the industry. So songs like "Maria Maria" and "Back In Black" became hits and earned him accolades he hadn't received earlier.