Santana ready to bring good energy to House of Blues

Carlos Santana can even find a spiritual way to complain about litter at the airport.

The guitar legend and Las Vegas transplant of two years’ tenure is taking more ownership of his new address, especially now that he’s launching a new gig as the anchor act of the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay.

Today is the first weekend for 30 shows before the end of the year, billed as “An Intimate Evening with Santana.” Now that the 64-year-old guitarist is as much a part of the scene as Rod Stewart or Elton John – more, considering they don’t live here – he’s thinking of new ways to collectively promote the city.

Here’s “another logo for Las Vegas,” he suggests: “It’s called, ‘Being present with love.’ ”

If that’s not catchy enough for the convention authority, how’s this? “People with passion for compassion.”

But this also means addressing some problems. “Let’s say you and I would go to the airport in Las Vegas and we ask very honorably to talk to the person in charge,” he says.

And we would tell them, “It’s important that you retrain the people … and clean it up, because it’s filthy. It’s filthy, filthy, filthy.”

“I resent it because people come from all over the world and it should be clean,” he says. But it’s also about “asking people to hold up your position with integrity,” and not passing the blame. “There’s a way to conduct energy by appealing to humans not to be pigs.

“All this is part of music,” he adds, “because we have to honor unity and harmony.”

Santana’s new House of Blues gig follows another two-year stretch of periodic Las Vegas dates, on the larger stage of the Hard Rock Hotel’s Joint. The House of Blues is less than half the size and will put tables and chairs on part of the floor that’s usually all general-admission standing room.

But Santana doesn’t want people to think the show will be more mellow as a result. “Wherever I play I bring it all with me,” he says. “We literally bring a lot of energy with us. Most people my age don’t play with a lot of energy. It’s like lickin’ stamps or something.”

But, he says, “I can’t emphasize a word more than energy. I’m into energy. I’m not into just punching the clock and routine ho-hum. No man, that’s death. I don’t recognize death, man; I recognize being alive. Lions roaring and jumpin’ on the female and makin’ her feel good. That’s the kind of energy that I want Santana to constantly bring on every song.”

May 15 brings a new Santana album, “Shape Shifter.” It’s actually a collection of instrumentals (with one vocal track) recorded between 1997 and 2007, but they never found their way onto his other albums of that era.

“All those songs were kind of in the closet,” he says. “I’m really surprised how vibrant and full of energy and how relevant they are right now.”

The album is a return to form for fans who felt Santana was sometimes demoted to side man on his Arista run of big-selling duets albums. The diminishing returns on those pairings finally seemed to run out of creative gas with 2010’s “Guitar Heaven.”

The new/old tracks include longtime collaborators Chester Thompson on keyboards and Dennis Chambers on drums, with Santana’s distinctive guitar restored to its full, lyrical prominence. Many of the leads are phrased as though they are voiced by a singer.

“The first thing that you should know as a musician is to carry a melody,” he says. “A lot of people cannot carry a melody. … They sound like a bunch of notes. A bunch of dots on paper, but there’s no blood in it, no life. That’s the first thing I learned from my father: Learn to carry the melody.”

“I think the word is called ‘grace,’ he adds a bit later. “Grace notes, grace movements, not just perfection, muscle, precision. That can be really cold and boring after a while. Grace is never boring.”

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ or 702-383-0288.

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