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Carlos Santana living ‘Blessings and Miracles’ after heart scare

We won’t call Carlos Santana’s return to the stage a “comeback,” exactly. The guitar great never really halts the creative process. But he sounds reborn today, having survived a serious health scare just as his latest album, “Blessings and Miracles,” has been released.

Santana’s return to performing Wednesday and this weekend at House of Blues at Mandalay Bay is a blessing, after he was forced to take a break after a heart scare in late November. The 74-year-old rock star’s new release is another spirited adventure, a duet-laden album drawing in such luminaries at Rob Thomas (forever linked to Santana for their “Smooth” collaboration more than 20 years ago), Chris Stapleton, the rapper G-Eazy, and Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett.

Santana chisels his signature guitar artistry throughout the album, which will be sampled extensively in the updated HoB shows.

As always, Cindy Blackman Santana, Carlos’ wife and a powerhouse drummer, anchors the band. And for the first time since pausing in February 2020, ex-Tower of Power front man Ray Green is onstage, packing the trombone and joining Andy Vargas on vocals.

Last week, Santana spoke of his heart scare, recovery and return to his home music hall:

Johnny Kats: I ask this every time we talk — how are you feeling? It’s usually more of a general question. But, really, how are you feeling, physically, right now?

Carlos Santana: “Well, I am feeling great. I have a lot of energy. It’s a matter of regaining equilibrium, balance and confidence. The procedure that I had is very, very serious, and it sucked a lot of energy from me. I wouldn’t have been able to play that I’m used to, to present my music to people. I would get winded really, really quick. It’s a procedure that requires a lot of time. The body just doesn’t like it when somebody goes in there. But, fortunately, I have recuperated.”

As I understand it, Cindy was on top of this immediately and made sure you were treated right away.

“Yeah, it was 2:30 in the morning, and I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. So I said to Cindy, ‘I think we need to go to a hospital, something doesn’t feel right.’ I hardly finished saying it, and we were in the car on the way to the hospital.”

This was a serious, emergency situation, right?

“When they drew blood to see what was happening, sure enough, we caught it just in time. I think it was 94 percent blockage in one artery. We corrected it, and the other one was 35 percent blocked, another one was 5 percent. Those can be corrected, and will be corrected, with medicine. But the one, they had to go in there with like a cord to keep making things flow. A stent is what it was.”

Did this episode change your perception of mortality at all, of how much time you have left on this planet?

“When some of my voices ask me those questions, I go the other way. I am so in the moment, I know what time it is, everywhere. I know what time it is in Singapore.”

What time is it in Singapore?

“Now! It is now, everywhere! So I laugh at mortality, or weakness. It is always now for me. I have been spending a lot more time with my life, with my spirit and with my soul, now.”

You’ve really been part of our city for a long time. You live here, you’ve been at House of Blues for 10 years now, and before that at the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel. How’s it feel to be so closely aligned with Las Vegas?

“Well, my first show here was opening up for the Grateful Dead, a loooong time ago (reference to a show at the Ice Palace at Commercial Center on March 29, 1969). They got me good. I didn’t realize it, but after the show they put something on my Coca-Cola can. Man, it took me three days to land.”

Oh, boy.

“It was very colorful. I kept seeing an ocean of green, women and men in green leotards. They were doing ballet, and it looked like an Escher painting. And it wouldn’t stop. I was like, ‘OK, guys, it’s getting a little scary.’ I was seeing myself sitting in front of this altar, looking at Jesus, and everything was dancing around. Jesus was dancing around. But I learned something back then, called faith and perseverance.”

Wild. And you are still here, doing it. You’re still at the top of your game.

“You know, that’s one of the main ingredients that drive Santana, through all the years and all of the bands, all of the transitions and shifts and moods. I believe in the perseverance of God, that he loves me and he believes in me.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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