Santana’s guitar magic outshines Rod Stewart’s showmanship in Vancouver

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photos by Jet Sutherland

By Steve Newton

In a perfect rock ‘n’ roll world, Rod Stewart would quit releasing those snoozy Great American Songbook golden-oldie albums, hook back up with Ronnie Wood and whatever other old Faces members are still kickin’, start drinking again, and go out in a blaze of glory on a Faces club tour that includes a stop at the Commodore Ballroom and a set list composed primarily of rowdy tracks from Ooh La La and A Nod is as Good as a Wink…to a Blind Horse.

But it’s not a perfect rock ‘n’ roll world, so we’re stuck with a Stewart who prefers to stock his current concerts with no Faces songs at all, but a barrage of disco-y ’80s hits, sentimental ballads, and time-tested covers.

The near sell-out crowd at Rogers Arena last night ate it up.

Stewart took the stage with a band dressed in sixties-era suits and a crew of seven female backing vocalists/multi-instrumentalists in high heels and red miniskirts, and launched right into one of his weakest numbers, “Infatuation”. But he soon made up for that poor choice of openers with one of the best tunes of his solo career, “You Wear It Well”, from his Never a Dull Moment LP of ’72.

Stewart’s voice seemed in decent shape for the most part, although the swarm of backup singers certainly helped in the second half of his set, when he came off as somewhat tuckered out. But that’s what kicking 30 or so autographed soccer balls into the crowd during “Hot Legs” will do to a guy, I guess. He can still get them up into the nosebleeds, too. Maybe the Whitecaps should give him a look.

There was one awkward part in the show where Stewart became like a Daniel Tosh for the over-50 set by showing a handful of videos from the Internet, including one of a randy dog that attempts to get overly friendly with an old lady. Stewart also tried to garner a few self-deprecating chuckles by displaying the cover of an old Rolling Stone magazine with a quote from himself that read: “I don’t want to become a parody of myself at 50 and still be singing ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ “.

Then he became a parody of himself at 69 by singing “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”

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By the time he pulled out his biggest hit ever, “Maggie May”, Stewart had the crowd in his back pocket, but I still preferred the opening act, Santana. “Our highest intention is to make you feelgoooooood,” announced band leader and guitar legend Carlos Santana, and he totally accomplished that goal with a smoking 11-piece band that included his usual triple-threat percussion setup (drums, congas, timbales), a two-piece horn section, and a pair of powerful lead singers.

Santana’s set was a well-balanced mix of Woodstock-era classics (“Soul Sacrifice”), ’70s radio staples (“Black Magic Woman”/”Gypsy Queen”), hits from his 15-times-platinum 1999 smash Supernatural(“Smooth”, Maria Maria”), and the odd track off his splendid new Spanish-language CD Corazón.

“We’re only an opening band,” said Santana at one point, “but we are going to make it really fucking hot for you tonight.”

He wasn’t fibbing about that, either.

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