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Guitar great Santana plots Vegas return

Updated March 16, 2021 - 12:11 pm

Carlos Santana has a sense of humor. Often, it is washed over by his guitar virtuosity. But he unveiled his self-deprecating nature in a phone chat this week.

The rock legend unspooled an especially long monologue about spirituality and consciousness with, “the good thing is I think that more people have become more conscious, aware that you can do so much more with our spirit to create miracles, blessings and bring a healing energy that give people hope, courage and joy.”

Then he paused. “Ooh, that was a mouthful. That was good.”

That was good, and it is always good, with Carlos Santana. He has achieved so much, artistically, culturally and commercially that it seems he’d have nothing more to offer. Not so. The coronavirus pandemic forced the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay headliner into a period of self-reflection.

“This is a very good lesson we have been learning, since last March to where we are right now,” Santana said, sounding a more serious note. “A lot of people have become more aware of their spirit and what you can do to make life on this planet better. I have learned that I have more to offer the world. My intuition is now a lot stronger … I don’t mind being goody-two-shoes, or singing ‘Kumbaya,’ or being a force for positive energy.”

Santana has been customarily active in the studio during the pandemic. He’s wrapping up his latest album, “Blessings and Miracles,” due out this year. Guitarist Kirk Hammett of Metallica and vocalist Mark Osegueda of Death Angel are contributing.

“I’m about 90 percent into it,” Santana said. “We have a song called ‘America for Sale,’ about selling it by the pound. ‘America for sale, nothing is holy ground.’ It’s really high energy. It probably has more energy than any album I’ve ever done.”

Joined by his wife, acclaimed drummer Cindy Blackman Santana, the guitarist is committed to returning to his House of Blues residency. He hopes he can be back this year at the venue that has served as his headlining home since spring 2012.

“We don’t have a defined date, it’s all kind of just flowing in the ether,” the 73-year-old rock star said said. “But I am seeing the way we’re going right now, they’re starting to open up places to play for baseball and basketball, the Colosseum (at Caesars Palace) is starting to open up. Eventually, around the corner, we’ll be able to be of service to our audience. But it will be House of Blues, oh yeah.”

A delicious idea that has been sidelined during the pandemic is Eric Clapton’s offer to produce an album of Santana singing. This concept has been knocked around since Clapton suggested it to Santana at the opening of Chase Arena in San Francisco in September 2019.

“I’m waiting to follow through with this, but Eric was supposed to guide me,” Santana said. “It’s like, if we were surfers, he would hold my hand for the first wave so I won’t be afraid to wipe out. But he’s been singing for a long time, so he’s supposed to take a little time from what he’s doing to walk me through at least three or four songs.”

The two haven’t discussed details. But Santana has a mini-medley in mind: “I aspire that the first song would be a combination of ‘Nature Boy’ and ‘Danny Boy.’ How ’bout that?”

Sounds like a hit.

Santana is also blending his philanthropic and entrepreneurial spirit, releasing his new coffee line last fall. “Oye Como Va” is the title of the dark roast. It could be called “Smooth,” too. Very good. And a percentage of his proceeds go to The Milagro Foundation, which supports several children’s charities worldwide.

“We can bring a level of energy, make people happy, and at the same time be of service to children all over the world,” said Santana, who has lent his name to men’s and women’s attire, tequila, wine, and musical equipment brands to channel money to the foundation.

While off-stage, the Santanas have spent most of their pandemic downtime on the island of Kauai. The couple also split time at his houses in San Rafael, California (where Santana was during our conversation) and Las Vegas, which is typically his primary residence when he’s playing the House of Blues.

“That’s where we replenish,” the rocker said. “We don’t hide, runaway, or escape. We replenish in Kauai now, but Las Vegas is our home.”

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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