Carlos Santana.
Carlos Santana.Denise Truscello

Carlos Santana will be enthusiastic—and hydrated—at Hard Rock AC: The guitar hero speaks with Chuck Darrow

Also, after more than 15 years, the “Decades” program returns to AyCee with a salute to jazz-rock pioneers Chicago.

Ask virtually any touring musician what fans coming to their shows can expect, and the answers are all but guaranteed to include the names of specific songs and/or albums. But ask classic-rock giant Carlos Santana that same question, and the answer has little to do with actual sounds.

“Lots of energy, high consciousness, and a joy that is only felt when you're based with the Holy Ghost,” he said when asked what’s in store for those attending his July-28-and-29 concerts at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.

“The material is something that I planned yesterday, today, and tomorrow: African rhythms, colors, melodies, frequency resonance…sound vibration that is very sensual and very spiritual at the same time.”

It’s an unusual response, but certainly not surprising. After all, Santana has long occupied a less-trod slice of the rock-music landscape.

He and the original iteration of his group, then based in San Francisco, exploded on the pop-music scene--first with a now-legendary performance at the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival in Aug. 1969, and a couple months later with the release of their self-titled debut album containing such beloved tracks as “Evil Ways” and “Soul Sacrifice.”

From the beginning, it was clear Santana, who on July 20 turns 76, was blazing an entirely new path with a sonic blueprint that seamlessly blended gritty blues, slick jazz, percolating, percussion-propelled Latino modes, driving rock and hook-laden pop, all cradling his soaring, melodic guitar lines that have placed him among the pantheon of six-string superstars.

Though the faces of his supporting musicians have changed regularly over the past five-plus decades, that basic musical blueprint has remained constant. And while, after some follow-up coaxing, he finally relented and name-checked “Oye Como Va,” from his iconic sophomore effort, 1970s Abraxas, it’s probably a safe bet the set lists will boast plenty of other fan favorites, including what is arguably his most enduring signature, “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen.”

Whether through his musicianship, interviews or writings (he’s published a number of books), Santana has made it clear his life has been a spiritual quest for guidance and enlightenment. But, he noted, one important lesson he’s gleaned has a far-more corporeal basis.

When asked how, as a septuagenarian, he prepares for the physical rigors of touring, a key part of his answer was rooted in an incident that occurred last year while he was playing a show at the Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston, Mich., about an hour northwest of Detroit: In the middle of the set, he collapsed from what was subsequently diagnosed as dehydration.

“Well,” he said, “what I learned is…I have to drink more water. I have to rest a little bit more, replenish. And I have to be listening to my wife [famed jazz and rock drummer Cindy Blackman] because she's really attentive to my body. She makes sure that I eat, and drink a lot of water so I don't get dehydrated.”

Of course, this being Carlos Santana, that preparation combines the physical with the metaphysical. He noted his pre-gig checklist also includes, “Meditating and reading; ‘spiritual schematics,’ is the best way to put it.

“I deal with schematics that help me be grateful and that ignite me with enthusiasm. I know what to do to ignite myself; because if I feel it, you're gonna feel it. If I don't feel it, you're not gonna feel it. So it's important that together, I and my band ignite ourselves with enthusiasm.”

In addition to his current 1001 Rainbows tour, another aspect of his career that is igniting enthusiasm in Santana is Carlos, an upcoming documentary executive produced by Hollywood heavyweights Ron Howard and Brian Glazer (Apollo 13, Splash, A Beautiful Mind) and directed by acclaimed documentarian, Rudy Valdez. It will be distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.

According to Santana, he has fended off docu-projects for decades. “Different people have approached me and I always rejected it because…it's always been a downer. They always focus on, you know, ‘poor little victim,’” he explained.

“And my life is not like that. You know, my life is not a victim mentality. My life is triumph, victory, and glory to God.

“But Ron Howard and his company [Imagine Entertainment] approached me and they complied with everything that I requested. It was basically three things: I wanna own my movie; I don't need to ask permission from them; I wanna be able to have my life presented with enthusiasm and as a shining example of how a person can live life-- having fun and uplifting, getting along and complimenting anything that gets in front of me.”

For tickets, click here.                                         

‘Decades’ returns

Back in the mid-2000s, what was then Trump Taj Mahal (now Hard Rock) hosted a series of ultra-cool, one-off programs presented under the Decades banner.

Staged for TV broadcast by veteran L.A.-based impresario Barry Summers, the Decades concept saw major rock acts not only doing their musical things, but joined by other big names who exclusively performed songs associated with the artist they were there to honor.

Among those in the Decades spotlight were Heart (with guests including Alice in Chains, Carrie Underwood and Gretchen Wilson) and Lynyrd Skynyrd (3 Doors Down, Bo Bice, Hank Williams Jr.).

Decades is set to return to Ocean Casino-Resort Nov. 17 and 18 with a salute to pioneering jazz-rock unit Chicago, who’ll use the occasion to celebrate the 55th anniversary of their 1968 debut album, Chicago Transit Authority (which was the band’s original name).

Already slotted to share the Ovation Hall stage with the band are Robin Thicke (“Blurred Lines”), Daughtry, the rock band fronted by former American Idol contestant Chris Daughtry and hard-rock guitar high priest Steve Vai, who has shredded for the likes of Frank Zappa, Whitesnake and David Lee Roth. Summers told us that more acts will be added to the roster.

Beyond the concept’s long-overdue return to the Boardwalk, Summers is particularly juiced by the opportunity to set up shop in Ocean’s fabulous Ovation Hall—which will house 30—count ‘em, 30—TV cameras (the festivities will be recorded and broadcast/streamed on various platforms)--and what he brags is an unprecedented menu of special, perk-laden ticket packages.

For tickets, click here

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