Rod Stewart and Santana at Xcel Energy Center, 8/10/14

Rod Stewart and Santana at Xcel Energy Center, 8/10/14
Photo by Joe Lemke

Rod Stewart and Santana
Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
Sunday, August 10, 2014

What do an English man and a Mexican man who have been making and performing hits since the beginning of time have in common? Well, as Carlos Santana so elegantly put it, "We both play black music for white people." As the weekend came to a close, Santana and Rod Stewart plowed through four hours of decades-old music to show St. Paul that carrying an AARP card doesn't mean you're too old for a rock show.

Rod Stewart and Santana at Xcel Energy Center, 8/10/14
Photo by Joe Lemke
Rod Stewart and Santana at Xcel Energy Center, 8/10/14
Photo by Joe Lemke

As the rain began to fall on an early August summer night, middle-aged men and women who teetered in on high heels -- some dressed to the nines and others casually attired -- hurried in to a huge production stage for Carlos Santana. The Latino musician was dressed in in black, including with his signature hat and mustache, but brightened up the room as his fingers danced along the strings for guitar solos on his version of "Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen." Not really known for his singing, Carlos joined in on the chorus for his cover of Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va," smiling the whole time to share what a good time he was having.

A prodigy himself, Santana knows to only play with the best performers in his nine-piece band -- which included three percussionists, two vocalists, a trumpeter and trombonist, keyboardist, bassist, and guitarist. The crew was so tight in their sound, they moved as one except during their solos. Santana has had fairly recent success with radio play for "Maria Maria" and his collaboration with Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas in "Smooth." His two vocalists, Tony Lindsay and Andy Vargas, filled in for Thomas on the latter, but gave it their own flavor. Yet they never quite mastered Rob's smooth -- so to speak -- delivery. Carlos later returned to the stage for a two-song encore that turned into a jam session/medley that included his guitarist's spot-on impression of Sting in "Roxanne."

Rod Stewart and Santana at Xcel Energy Center, 8/10/14
Photo by Joe Lemke

If Carlos Santana was the extra-generous serving of an appetizer, Rod Stewart was the prime rib and potatoes. Dressed in a yellow jacket that stood out amongst his band -- although everyone in his band was good looking -- the 69-year-old came out voicing, "Good evening, my friends." Opening with "Infatuation," Stewart filled the evening with hit after hit, prancing around onstage and giving everyone a glimpse of yellow socks as bright as his jacket. While he's no Mick Jagger, Stewart has this charm about him, dancing as you would imagine your grandfather would.

Being as old as most grandfathers are doesn't stop him from having more kids. The performer shared that since the time he last visited the Twin Cities, his wife has had another kid, making that eight in total for his brood of children. He cheekily added, "That's why I gotta keep doing this [music] -- because I have so many kids."

Rod Stewart and Santana at Xcel Energy Center, 8/10/14
Photo by Joe Lemke

As the strains for "Rhythm of My Heart" swelled, Stewart marched in time to the pounding drums as his voice filled the empty spaces that live in your heart when he sings "Oh, rhythm of my heart is beating like a drum/with the words "I love you" rolling off my tongue/No never will I roam for I know my place is home/where the ocean meets the sky I'll be sailing." Stewart knew when to give credit to his band, allowing each of his backing singers a solo on the chorus.

A quick break in the evening had Stewart changing outfits into a bright silver suit and adding an seven-piece orchestra -- comprised entirely of local women on strings that included some Laurels Quartet members -- for "The First Cut is the Deepest" and "Brighton Beach." While Stewart was prepared for "Have I Told You Lately," everyone was preparing for "Brighton Beach," making him backtrack, saying, "There's been an error with the administration. In other words, we fucked up," and sending the gentleman behind me into gales of laughter. As his newest piece, "Brighton Beach" -- which he urged to audience to act as if they've heard it a million times before -- falls into the same veins as many of his hits, with catchy hooks and a narrative of young love.

As the night grew longer, the sweetest notes for "You're In My Heart" came on. While most love songs begin well, they often contain some tiny portion of the human condition called cynicism. Rod's track never falls in that category, keeping it simple and sweet the whole time.

He saved his biggest hits in "Hot Legs" and "Maggie May" for last, kicking out personally autographed soccer balls to fans during ""Hot Legs." Some of those kicks were impressive as they reached the rafters of the arena. His gauzy curtain that was down before his set came down again, but rose quickly for the encore of "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" that had his whole band and the orchestra back to the stage. And since he asked, to answer his question if we think he is sexy. Yes, Rod, we do think you are.

Critic's bias: All production aside, Rod Stewart could carry the show on his voice and music alone. This guy can craft and pick pop hits.

The crowd: Average age was 40 plus.

Overheard in the crowd: "I'm a little surprised there was no nap time during sets tonight."

Random notebook dump: Rod was seen taking a sip from a cup that could either have been wine or prune juice.

Santana Setlist

Galaxy Dance Intro
Toussaint L'Overture
Hope You're Feeling Better
Everybody's Everything
Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen
Oye Como Va (Tito Puente cover)
Maria Maria
Foo Foo
Corazón Espinado
 Jingo Europa (Earth's Cry, Heaven's Smile)
Tequila (The Champs cover)

Woodstock Chant
Soul Sacrifice

Rod Stewart Setlist

Having a Party (Sam Cooke cover)
You Wear It Well
It's a Heartache (Bonnie Tyler cover)
Young Turks
Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)
Rhythm of My Heart
I'd Rather Go Blind (Etta James cover)
Forever Young
The First Cut Is the Deepest (Cat Stevens cover)
I Don't Want to Talk About It (Crazy Horse cover)
Brighton Beach
Sweet Little Rock & Roller (Chuck Berry cover)
Proud Mary (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover)
You're in My Heart (The Final Acclaim)
Hot Legs
Maggie May

Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?

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Xcel Energy Center

175 W. Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55102


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