An evening with Carlos Santana and friends.
Carlos Santana, a veteran of rock and roll, blues, and Latin musical styles for over 30 years, took the Grammys last year by storm with "Supernatural." That recording showed a great melding of style with pure artistic intensity and feeling. Now a full concert, with many luminary guest stars such as Dave Matthews, Sarah McLachlan, and Rob Thomas has arrived on DVD, with Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks that is one of the finer concert discs I've reviewed yet. Terrific sound, fine picture, and quality extras combine for a DVD music fans will love.
I've been a fan of Santana for a long time. It seems like he came out of nowhere last year, especially to our younger readers, but he never left. Still, it was only when Santana got on with Arista and Clive Davis that he got the exposure he needed to become a household name once again. I was very happy to see him get the recognition he deserved from fans of all ages, and the awards at the Grammys. His music has a timeless, genre-busting quality that appeals to a wide range, because it is so honest and shows such obvious talent. As he says in his interview on this disc, the most important factor in his music is his ability to "get inside the note," which means he puts his own emotion and style on each note and makes it unmistakably his.
That talent and ability comes through in spades with this disc. Santana is an artist; while he can run a fast riff with the best of them he feels no need to do so and rather picks his notes for what he needs for the music. He also believes in "sculpting music," where he can mix and match various styles and people to create something new. For this reason he includes so many other guest stars to work on various songs with him. There is a marked difference between various numbers on this disc, but he still maintains an anchor with his guitar. The result with this concert is energetic, eclectic music that never fails to keep interest and enthusiasm.
Arista and BMG music have really come through with this disc. The picture quality is generally excellent; with very sharp detail and bold colors that do not bleed. Only in one quick scene did I see any instance of shimmer on the keys of a set of keyboards. But the rest of the time I saw a high level of detail and clarity, which passed my "guitar string" test (do the strings break up or do they show as a full string). The most important aspect of a concert disc is of course the sound, and both soundtracks are impressive. While the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack has a great deal of clarity and presence, the DTS exceeds it in subtle ways. Both offer a wide and deep soundstage, with true channel separation with the split surrounds and from front to back. A wonderful sound experience, whichever track you choose; but the DTS is just a bit better.
One difference between a decent and a very good concert disc is the inclusion of meaningful extras. "Supernatural Live" has them. An 18-minute interview with Santana gets into his past and his motivations, with a photo gallery playing over the audio. A short featurette discusses the making of the CD with the guest stars giving their impressions on working with Santana. A virtual love-fest, as you might expect, but still nice. Six minutes of behind the scenes rehearsal footage comes next. Music videos for "Smooth," "Maria Maria," "Put Your Lights On," and "Corazon Espinado" are also offered in stereo sound. A text biography, song lyrics, and fan club information rounds out the extra content.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
My biggest complaint is probably that the disc is full frame rather than anamorphic widescreen. Concerts with wide stages and lots of people and things going on would be better shown with widescreen. Next up is the lack of lyrics as subtitles. There are French and Spanish subtitles on the disc but only for the short speech segments between some of the songs. Lyrics are included as a bonus feature, but the best discs let you see them with the music so you can sing along if you want to, or at least understand tricky lyrics.
One other area I would like to see on more discs is the use of multiple angles so you can see different aspects of the concert without constant shifting from person to person. I do have to complement the makers of this disc for including a camera attached to the neck of Santana's guitars so you could get a birds eye view of his fingers as he played. I would really have liked to stick to that view through a whole song. Very few discs have made use of this feature so far so I can't really complain for the lack of it here, but I'd really like to see it used more.
Despite those small complaints about what the disc doesn't have, I have to give an enthusiastic recommendation for this DVD. The concert is hot; the music sounds great, and the soundtracks are terrific. The picture quality is very high, and there are several noteworthy extras. If you haven't listened to Santana, do yourself a favor and give him a try. If you already know you like him, get this disc.
All involved are absolutely acquitted. A great disc that will get plenty of replay value at my house.
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