Santana, onstage in Australia, effortlessly crossed decades and styles at Merriweather.
Santana, onstage in Australia, effortlessly crossed decades and styles at Merriweather. (By Paul Kane -- Getty Images)
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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana likes his job better than you like yours. Seems like it, anyway, on the evidence of the 60-year-old guitar legend's soulful 2 1/2 -hour set at a frigid Merriweather Post Pavilion on Sunday night. Also: Jam bands might not be inherently evil. What else could you conclude after hearing his ace 11-piece, three-percussionist-powered ensemble, effortlessly marrying spicy samba to gut-punch blues to chilled jazz to scorched-earth rawk? This is one jam band that knows how to kick them out.

Santana took the stage in a red hoodie, the only visual cue distinguishing him from his dark-clothed fellows. He left most of the singing to Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay, but his volcanic fretwork left no doubt who was in charge. Still, his humility was refreshing, considering his career goes back to a showstopping set at the original Woodstock.

For "Soul Sacrifice," video screens crosscut close-ups of the real-time live performance with clips from "Woodstock" (the movie) of the then-unfamiliar band doing the same tune 39 years earlier. The evergreen "Oye Como Va" had a visual accompaniment, too, of album covers and performance clips through the ages.

With these exceptions, the beguilingly youthful guitarist had no time for nostalgia, cranking the hits from his career -- rebooting 1999's "Supernatural" disc and later tunes with as much fire as the Nixon-era war horses. And the set was a hit parade, bookended by 1969's portentous "Jingo" and last year's "Into the Night." In between came "everything you wanna hear, man, believe me," in the words Santana used to chide a boor who dared interrupt one of his agreeably loopy pontifications. "We are the architects of a new dawn," Santana waxed. "In my mind's eye, I see Barack Obama taking the day shift and Hillary Clinton taking the night shift."

Spoken like a man angling for a cabinet post -- Shredmaster General?

-- Chris Klimek

Mary J. Blige and Jay-Z

Yeah, Mary J. Blige and Jay-Z were in town on Sunday: She sang, he rapped, they both wore a lot of jewelry -- blah, blah, blah. The show was amazing, but all anyone really wanted to know was: Does Jay-Z now have the "hottest chick in the game" wearing his ring?

Despite reports that Jay-Z and Beyoncé tied the knot Friday, Jay didn't allude to any nuptials during the D.C. stop of his "Heart of the City" tour at Verizon Center. He didn't wear a wedding band and, sadly, "B" didn't march out onstage in a white gown to perform "Crazy in Love" alongside her man.

Still, the concert did reveal one newsworthy tidbit: The two biggest icons of late '90s/early '00s R&B and hip-hop are as relevant as ever. Since megastar singer Blige found inner peace a few years ago, her ability to minister to young women who are still broke and dating raggedy men has been questioned. However, with a rousing performance that included everything from "Reminisce" (from her 1992 debut) to her latest anthem, "Just Fine" (from 2007's "Growing Pains"), the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul showed no intention of ceding her crown. (Sorry, Keyshia Cole!)

Jay-Z recently suffered a well-publicized slump that included his corporate turn as head of Def Jam and 2006's lackluster "Kingdom Come," but the rapper let everyone know he cannot lose with tracks from last year's "American Gangster," including "I Know," "No Hook" and "Blue Magic." And a stream of classics ("Can I Live," "U Don't Know," "99 Problems") made one wonder why his greatness was ever challenged. By all appearances, not only does Hov have an acclaimed new album, a freshly inked deal with Live Nation and (perhaps) a new beautiful wife, but, best of all, he's got his swagger back.

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