What with a couple sticks of incense smouldering at his feet and a small photograph of his spiritual adviser, Sri Chinmoy, propped up on an amplifier behind him, Devadip Carlos Santana didn't exactly look ready to unleash the fury of rock 'n' roll at the Merriweather Post Pavilion last night. Nevertheless, he and the eight-piece band that bears his name spent much of the evening doing just that, in a concert that bore little resemblance to the group's commercially calculated recordings of late.

Actually, it was more of a jam session than a concert, with one song erupting into another, then another. Along the way the band exumed many of its hits--"Black Magic Woman," "Evil Ways"--as well as a couple of interesting cover versions--The Zombies' "She's Not There" and Chuck Berry's "Havana Moon"--but the real excitement came during the instrumentals. On these freewheeling and often feverish excursions, Devadip balanced hard-nosed blues guitar solos with melodic interludes against a dense backdrop of Afro Cuban percussion.

Indeed, the polyrhythms hammered out on timbales, bongos, trap drums and two sets of congas were so intense at times that a less resourceful and imaginative guitarist would have seemed utterly superfluous. Ultimately, Devadip's improvisatory zeal was rewarded with several encores.