Joel’s Ticket Stubs: Carlos Santana

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Shaman World Tour
Tuesday, February 18, 2003
Compaq Center — Houston, TX
Opener(s): Citizen Cope

I was 16 years-old when I attended my first concert.

My mom surprised my dad and I with two tickets to see Carlos Santana live at the Compaq Center in Houston for reasons I’m still unclear about.

I think it was an anniversary gift to my dad, since the tickets were bought in November 2002 and their anniversary falls right in there, but I’m not entirely sure.

I remember being excited for the gig as the date approached, but it was also a bit anticlimactic.

Carlos Santana was a big name and a well-known commodity. His first three Santana albums in the late 60s/early 70s (I, II, and III) were crazy popular and heavily influential. But as the 80s dragged on and the 90s approached, Santana wasn’t a commercially viable entity anymore and, after 1992’s Milagro album, he vanished from the marketplace.

His career renaissance in June 1999 on the heels of the uber-successful Supernatural album had made him a star again after a couple decades of relative anonymity.

That album was a mammoth comeback that broke the band, and the guitarist, into the big time in ways even their most successful albums from the 70s never did.

By inviting stars of that particular time period to guest on the album — Rob Thomas, Lauryn Hill, Everlast, Eagle-Eye Cherry, Eric Clapton, and Dave Matthews, among many others — the album became its own hits machine, rolling them out systematically, one after another, keeping the album, and the artist, in the limelight.

The album went on to become 15x platinum in the U.S. alone, and won NINE Grammy awards in one night.

For almost two years, that album made waves around the world, hitting number one on numerous charts, receding a bit, and then returning to the top.

It was a much-played album at the Roza house in Houston. We all loved it and played the shit out of it. It was one of those rare moments in music when a record came out and it transcended generation gaps.

Because of its unique structure of legendary artist and band with modern stars filling it out, it was a true generational hybrid. I can’t think of many other records before or since in my lifetime that made that kind of impact.

Santana tried to strike while the iron was hot and, essentially, make another Supernatural.

Same ingredients — multiple guest singers and musicians of the time, radio-friendly tunes designed to be hits, and that same Carlos Santana swagger behind it all.

Released in October 2002, Shaman was a carbon-copy of Supernatural in both its build and presentation. It sold like hot cakes out of the gate but, unlike its predecessor, it began to sink quickly after.

I think it’s difficult to replicate a successful accident and that’s what Supernatural was — a crazy successful accident. Shaman followed the formula but the songs just weren’t as strong or memorable.

But when the Shaman world tour was announced in November 2002, my mind wasn’t on that tour, but rather on Metallica’s upcoming release (St. Anger) and being able to attend a show on that tour sometime later in the year. Metallica were (and are) my gods, so their return to the live stage was of imminent importance to me.

Bratty as it sounds, I didn’t ask for Santana tickets, so it felt like the choice of which show I’d rather go to was being taken away (it wasn’t). But we were still months from Metallica’s tour even being announced, so I let that go quickly and just lived in the moment. I was, and still am, totally appreciative of the gesture and act.

I was really jazzed about the show being at the Compaq Center (formerly The Summit) as it was slated to be one of the last major concert events held there before it would be closed and re-purposed as Lakewood Church in late 2003/early 2004.

My dad had seen a bunch of shows there through the 1970s and early 80s, so this felt like I was connecting with his concert lineage a bit.

THE SHOW

My dad has a serial issue with punctuality in that… he’s not very punctual. My childhood is littered with late arrivals to ballgames and events because no one rushes my dad. The more you do it, the slower he moves. He usually did these things on the heels of long work days, so his idea of a good time doesn’t typically involve giving in to a 16 year-old tyrant yelling “mush!” as he tries to take 10 minutes to unwind from a day filled with traffic, assholes, and more traffic. Not to mention his actual job.

I’ve grown to accept it to a degree. I consider myself lucky to at least have a father who took me to ballgames and events and all that. Us being late all the time did breed a unique father/son tradition of ours where we purchase crappy seats and then steal better seats as people either fail to show up or get up to walk around.

We’ve been asked to leave seats many times over the years and we always do it with that reaction of, “oh my gosh, we had no idea these were your seats! By all means…”, and then we just go steal someone else’s seats.

That, however, wasn’t necessary on this night. We arrived just after doors opened and stood in the merch line where I bought my first-ever concert shirt and concert poster, which followed me around the world until fairly recently, when it had to be sadly and mercifully put out of its misery.

Once that was settled, we found our seats in the upper bowl of the arena, stage-left, and awaited the night’s first act.

Citizen Cope setlist:
1. Appetite (for Lightin’ Dynamite)
2. Mistaken I.D.
3. Let the Drummer Kick
4. Salvation
5. If There’s Love
6. Contact

Neither my dad nor I had ever heard of Citizen Cope as he was fairly new at that point. Santana covered one of his songs, “Sideways”, on the Shaman album, and played it with Citizen Cope during his own sets, but he was a total unknown at this point.

To be honest, I don’t remember much about his set other than I know I saw it and he played an acoustic guitar virtually the whole way. It was good to our ears and we made mention of it later, but I can’t recall any specifics of it very well.

As is custom in these parts, the arena was only half-full for Citizen Cope, but they seemed to dig his almost folksy, bluesy brand of hip-hop.

He’s gone on to some measurable success over the years and still performs today, but I’m completely oblivious to it.

Carlos Santana setlist:
1. Truth Don Die
(Femi Kuti cover)
2. Adouma
3. Nothing at All
4. One of These Days
5. Victory Is Won
6. Maria Maria
7. Foo Foo
8. Put Your Lights On
9. Aye Aye Aye
10. Sideways
(Citizen Cope cover) (with Citizen Cope)
11. Corazón espinado
(Santana feat. Maná cover)
12. The Game of Love
13. Spiritual / (Da Le) Yaleo
14. Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen
15. Oye como va
(Tito Puente cover)

Encore

16. Apache / Smooth / Dame tu amor
17. Jin-go-lo-ba
(Babatunde Olatunji cover) (Jingo)
18. Peace on Earth … Mother Earth … Third Stone from the Sun

Say what you will about Carlos Santana, he is an artist of unparalleled musical exploration within the rock genre. You may not always like what he puts out, but he listens to his musical heart and follows it blindly.

Except for Shaman which, I think we’ve covered, was a total carbon copy of its predecessor.

That said, both albums were focused on hard during this show, and it’s no surprise that they went over pretty well with the crowd.

During the set, I kept thinking “wow, Carlos Santana and I are in the same place!” It was wild to see a living legend just a couple hundred feet away, doing his thing at what had to be a totally fulfilling time in his life and career.

I think most people have that same moment at their first shows, too, or maybe I’m just a fucking weirdo. Could be both.

One exciting event from an otherwise pretty tame evening was the fight between two heavy-set drunk dudes who seemed to be arguing over a spilled beer and eventually turned to fisticuffs.

They then tripped on each other’s feet, which was inevitable, and went rolling down the stairs, right past my dad and I, into the concrete ledge separating them from becoming ‘death from above’ to unsuspecting concertgoers below us.

As security pulled them apart and away, one of the guys ripped his own shirt off, spit in the other guy’s direction and yelled, “puto blahblahblahblahblah!” at the other guy.

(That was my best Spanish translation. You’re welcome.)

The show ended with some classic Santana tracks and an assortment of deeper tracks.

When the lights came up and the band departed for the final time, I was hooked on the live show experience. I was only 16, but I wanted to go to as many shows as possible and just soak in that kind of experience. I wanted to be on the floor, and I wanted to be in position to catch guitar picks and drumsticks. I was permanently enamored.

Once the traffic cleared, dad and I established our aftershow tradition — jamming in the van to the very music we just listened to live, show postmortem, and then Whataburger where we inevitably run into fans from the gig and give knowing glances and even occasional fist bumps.

That tradition remains alive and well, as does the memory of this landmark first live show.

Thankfully, it would not be the last.

Joel Roza Jr. is an at-large writer covering a wide spectrum of subjects ranging from sports to politics and other special interests.

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