You could say we’re in a 4th generation of rock concerts. In the early 60s, multiple groups would appear together on one bill, each playing a few of their hits. By the late 60s, popular bands like The Rolling Stones would headline a show, with 2 or more opening acts playing shorter sets for exposure. As the century ended, huge acts like U2 or Bruce Springsteen would play for 3 or more hours without an opening act. In recent years, with money tight and concert costs climbing, there has been a new development – 2 acts who once filled arenas as headliners sharing a co-billed tour.
This year, for example, we have Def Leopard and Kiss, Motley Crue and Alice Cooper, Jeff Beck and Z. Z. Top, and Pat Benatar and Cher.
Last night, a co-billed tour of Carlos Santana and Rod Stewart performed at the Verizon Center as part of their tour labeled The Voice, The Guitar, The Songs.
Santana explained his reasoning behind the pairing:
“People ask me, ‘Carlos, what do you and brother Rod have in common?” I say well, we both listened to Sam Cooke. We both listened to Otis Redding. We both listened to Etta James. We both listened to Nina Simone. Now, we both play black music for white people. And we both like to drive the girls crazy.”
Santana, backed by a tight band including another guitar player, a keyboard player, a bass player, a drummer, 2 percussionists, 2 horn players, and 2 vocalists, then proceeded to deliver a blistering 90-minute set of tunes spanning his 45-year career.
For long-time fans, there was “Black Magic Woman” segueing into “Oye Coma Va.: There was “Jin-go-la-ba” from his first album. Complete with the No Rain chant and clips from Woodstock, there was the encore, the iconic “Soul Sacrifice.”
There were also songs for newer fans like “Maria Maria” and “Smooth.”
There were also several welcome surprises including a rousing version of “Tequilla” by the Champs, a guest appearance by guitar great Jimmy Herring on on the blues tune “If Anyone Can” and interspersed snippets of such rock classics as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (the Beatles), “Third Stone from the Sun” (Jimi Hendrix), “Low Rider” (War), and even “The Pink Panther Theme” (Henry Mancini).
But while Santana played as powerfully as ever, the years appear not to have been as kind to Stewart, who delivered an hour-and-45-minute set more Vegas smooth than Woodstock raw. Even his great hit “Maggie May” sounded perfunctory and he spent more times kicking soccer balls to the crowd during “Hot Legs” than he did singing.
In fact, the high point of the set was Santana’s re-emergence to join Stewart on a cover of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind.” After the pair traded vocal lines and guitar licks, Stewart told the crowd “We’ve been on this tour for 2 months and every night Carlos comes out and plays something completely different. That inspires me to sing the song differently.”
Hopefully, there may be more such inspiring help on the way. Prior to playing “Stay with Me,” Stewart told the crowd, “A long time ago, I played in a band called The Faces. We keep talking about getting back together and we will do it. But we better hurry.”
I hope the Faces do reunite. Or Stewart and Jeff Beck can patch up differences and tour as The Jeff Beck Group. Because until that version of “Rod the Mod” returns I think I’ve seen enough of the “Vegas Review Rod.”
So as someone who has seen you in concert more than 10 times since 1968, I’m urging you – please make those calls right away. I want my old Rod Stewart back. If Carlos, and Mick, and Paul can do it, you can, too.
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More Santana/Stewart from The Prices Do DC
Apparently, the Santana over Stewart DC night was typical of the tour. Here is a review from Jon Bream in The Minneapolis Star Tribune that, with a few exceptions, could just have easily described last night’s Washington show.