Blu-ray Review: Santana: Live At US Festival

People tried to compare the US Festival with Woodstock from the time it was announced. While both festivals featured major rock stars of the time, the two festivals couldn’t have been more different for these two gigantic music festivals that attracted hundreds of thousands of people. The most obvious difference is that Woodstock marked the end of the ’60s on the East Coast and the US Festival was part of the spawning of the ’80s on the West Coast. The fences didn’t come down at the US Festival turning it into a free festival. Bill Graham didn’t put up with any nonsense when he ran the US Festival. Band hit the stage at the right time. Bands also got paid that the US Festival because Steve Wozniak used part of his Apple fortune to cover the budget. Steve never whined about losing money on his festival because he did it because he wanted this magical weekend in 1982. Steve enjoyed his festival so much he had a second one a year later. Woodstock was chaos. The US Festival was a well oiled machine. One of the few things Woodstock and the US Festival had in common was Carlos Santana taking the stage with his band. Santana: Live At US Festival captures his way of linking the fans from 1969 with the new generation in 1982.

When Santana hit the stage that sunny day in San Bernardino, he was not some sort of relic of the ’60s meant to remind the kids of what mom and dad danced to in the mud after taking brown acid. The band was riding high on the charts. Their video for “Hold On” was running on MTV and getting counted down by Casey Kasem on the charts. They hit that stage ready to play in the present tense and not dwell in the past. It also helped that Carlos had plenty of new band members from the ’69 version that played on Yasgur’s Farm. Scottish singer and rhythm guitarist Alex Ligertwood was the new voice. The most dominating aspect of the band after Carlos Santana’s guitar work was the massive percussion section he brought on stage with Raul Rekow, Armando Peraza, Orestes Vilato and Graham Lear. They bring that special Santana beat to the audience. There was also a special guest when Herbie Hancock was Santana’s special guest on “Incident At Neshabur.” He was a year away from unleashing “Rockit” on the world. This afternoon he was adding his jazz keyboard notes to the piece. During his solo, Carlos works in a bit from “My Favorite Things.” It seems like a sly tribute to John Coltrane since Herbie was there.

While not a full concert since Santana was slotted between Eddie Money and The Cars on the Saturday that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers headlined, the band gives off the energy of a two hour set in their hour long performance. It’s strange that the band skipped “Winning” which had been a massive hit the previous year. The crowd doesn’t seem to care as they enjoy the set on that hot summer day. Instead of giving us just the concert from start to finish, between a few of the songs, we cut to the Carlos Santana of today discussing what the show meant to him. The special really highlights how the US Festival was a smooth operation since the band isn’t messing around with unexpected issues. Him and the band can focus on the music that makes Santana: Live At US Festival as good for the ears as the eyes.

Set List
• Searchin’
• Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen
• Oye Como Va
• Nowhere To Run
• Incident At Neshabur
• Savor
• Jingo Lo Ba
• Hold On
• She’s Not There / Marbles
• Open Invitation
• Shango

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The concert was videotaped since they had a giant screen above the stage to give the vast crowd a hint what the tiny performers were doing. The upgrade transfer from standard definition makes the action look smooth. The audio is DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo. The sound is sharp and you get the all various percussion instruments coming through fine and clear. The show is subtitled.

Woodstock & US Festival (1:51) has Carlos Santana speak of transforming fear.

Signature Sound (1:23) has him talk about how he creates a note with his whole body and not just his fingers.

Santana’s Music (2:52) has him reflect on how a kid in Tijuana got the idea to mix the Blues with the sounds he heard around him.

Santana & Bill Graham (1:22) has him pay respect to the concert promoter who hooked him up on big gigs. He never let Bill manage his band, but viewed him as a mentor.

Shout! Factory presents Santana: Live at US Festival. Directed by: Glenn Aveni. Starring: Carlos Santana, Alex Ligertwood and Herbie Hancock. Running time: 68 minutes. Rated: Unrated. Released: September 6, 2019

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