Like the hit album
that inspires its name, Supernatural Live
brings journeyman guitarist Carlos Santana back into the mainstream by surrounding him with younger superstars eager to bask in his formidable musical presence. Resuscitating stardom through sheer proximity can translate to forced pairings or superfluous music making, but credit Santana himself with minimizing such missteps. A fusion artist before the term was coined, the erstwhile Mexican street musician long ago extended his technical reach and broadened his stylistic palette by hungrily assimilating different styles of music. Accordingly, he shifts gears easily, whether soloing behind Dave Matthews, trading lines with legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter, or spicing up a hip-hop excursion with Lauryn Hill.
Santana justifiably taps into the late '90s' breakout for Latin pop, hardly surprising in light of his early identification with Latin-rock via his 1968 recording debut. His early reworking of Tito Puente's classic "Oye Como Va" thus pops up as the set closer, while the concert kicks off with a frenetic, horn-powered "(Da Le) Yaleo," given added spectacle by a swaying corps of lissome female dancers in feathered headgear. Elsewhere, the guitarist hosts a procession of the stars that added their marquee value to the Supernatural album, including Rob Thomas (the massive hit, "Smooth," here performed as a medley with "Dame Tu Amor") and Everlast. But a duet with label colleague Sarah McLachlan on "Angel" yields the concert's only anticlimax--on a ballad built from spare piano and a poignant lyric, Santana's innate taste leaves him little to contribute beyond a delicate tracery of classical guitar.
Production values are excellent, with crisp camera work and sound mixing. A special remote camera, mounted on the neck of Santana's guitar, presents his intricate fretwork in nifty close-ups that are wisely held to just a few songs. --Sam Sutherland
Santana ~ Supernatural Live