There are a lot of great rock guitarists in the world, but there aren’t all that many whose signature sound is so distinctive that they can’t be mistaken for anyone else once you’ve heard a phrase or two. A prominent place in the pantheon of those inimitable axe-slingers will be forever reserved for Carlos Santana, who is returning to the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts this Sunday as part of that venue’s summerlong celebration of the 45th anniversary of the Woodstock festival.
Surprisingly, it’s only the third time that Santana will ever have played at the hallowed site, which must hold a special place in his player’s heart. It’s easy to forget that in 1969, the name Santana wasn’t already an international byword for rock/blues/jazz/world music fusion. Though it was rapidly amassing fans on the San Francisco club scene – including Fillmore impresario Bill Graham – his band had yet to release its eponymous first album. But Santana’s hard-driving performance of the 11-minute instrumental “Soul Sacrifice” became a high point of the movie Woodstock, and the exposure drove the band’s debut LP and the single “Evil Ways” to the top of the charts and kept them there for a long time.
Santana’s career has had its ups and downs over the years. A lot of time spent woodshedding with jazz greats like Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Alice Coltrane, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, John McLaughlin and McCoy Tyner honed the guitarist’s improvisatory chops but distanced some of the band’s more rock-oriented early fans. Still, Santana keeps circling back to his percussion-heavy Latin roots, and he has charted a Billboard Top Ten album in every decade since the 1960s: a feat equaled only by the Rolling Stones. He has won ten Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammies, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and was appointed to the Number 20 spot on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
So if his appearance as a relative unknown at the Woodstock festival back in August 1969 lit the fuse of a very successful career, why hasn’t Carlos Santana come back here more often? In his 2010 performance at Bethel Woods, Santana called the site “Ground Zero for peace and love…the place where miracles keep happening.” Maybe this return visit signifies the beginning of a trend – or maybe not. Best not take a chance of missing this living legend of trans-genre, cross-cultural electric guitar while he’s in our neck of the woods.
The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 15. Tickets cost $61, $91.50 and $127 for reserved seating in the Pavilion and $36 for general admission on the Lawn. They are available via TicketMaster at (800) 745-3000 or online at www.bethelwoodscenter.org.
And while we’re on the subject of rock ’n’ roll anniversaries, check out the commemoration of 50 years of Beatlemania in the US that’s running through August 17 in the Special Exhibit Gallery at the Museum at Bethel Woods. “America Meets the Beatles!” features photos – many never seen before publication of his new book The Beatles: Six Days that Changed the World – that were shot by Life magazine photographer Bill Eppridge during the Beatles’ first visit to the US in 1964, including their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The exhibit also includes a display of albums, posters, figurines, pins, fan-club ephemera and collectibles from the huge collection of rock memorabilia that Rod Mandeville is donating to the Museum.
“America Meets the Beatles!” is open during regular Museum hours of 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Access is included in regular museum admission prices of $15 for adults, $13 for seniors age 65 and up, $11 for youth ages 8 to 17, $6 for children ages 3 to 7 and free for kids under age 3. If you want to see the Special Exhibit only, without visiting the rest of the Museum, entry costs $5. For more details call (866) 781-2922 or visit www.bethelwoodscenter.org.
Carlos Santana in concert, Sunday, June 15, 7:30 p.m., $127/$91.50/$61/$36, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts; “America Meets the Beatles!” exhibit, Monday-Sunday through August 17, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.,Museum at Bethel Woods, 200 Hurd Road, Bethel; (866) 781-2922, www.bethelwoodscenter.org