Carlos Santana opens his mind, heart to Vegas gig

The same Carlos Santana who lived through the Summer of Love and rocked Woodstock is now a Vegas showman.

That's right. Santana, who turns 63 next week, has joined the likes of Bette Midler, Celine Dion and Elton John in Sin City with his own digs at the Joint, the rock club inside the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

His shows resume in August and September, but we caught up with the legendary Mexican-born guitarist to chat about the wonders of light, love and Las Vegas.

What have you learned about yourself, your career, in Vegas?

I've learned so much. I've been validated for so many years, but being in Vegas has allowed me to be even more present, knowing that people in front of me are flying from Australia, Paris, Kansas, from all over the world to celebrate birthdays and wedding anniversaries.


That's more obvious now than it was when you were touring traditional venues?

I had an idea then, but now it's in front of me because people want to take pictures everywhere. When I go from my room to the restaurant, somebody stops me and tells me they flew from Sydney, Australia, to see me.

What do you like most about setting up in a theater and staying there for a while?

There's no distraction of planes and hotels every day. You're in the same place with the same sound, and what you do crystallizes each concert so it feels like your first French kiss, your first chills. Because everything I said I would never do came from fear.

Had you said you would never play a Vegas residency?

Everything I said I would never do, I then got a burst of energy, and instead of feeling like I was going to prison, I felt more liberated. We really have the opportunity to crystallize each note here so it has the perfect blend of genuineness, sincerity, feeling and that delicious blend of staccato and legato. And you learn to realize that you're not a contradiction. To one minute go up-and-down staccato and then the next minute side-to-side legato. ... I learned to crystallize my brain and be more transparent. Light and love — that's what people have come to see since the beginning of Santana. They would hear themselves through me.

Do you like Las Vegas? Do you hate Las Vegas?

Before I did this, I thought Las Vegas was a window of Macy's — stagnant and stiff, synthetic and plastic. My brain made up all these incredible things, being a hippie and all, and those things came from fear as well. And now I look at it as an opportunity instead of labor or a job or something that burdens. I'm focused on entertaining people's hearts with the music.

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