Carlos Santana is ready to play.
The iconic, 10-time Grammy-winning guitarist is set to return to the road after more than a year off — and the good times begin in New Jersey.
Santana's 15-date "Blessings and Miracles" tour kicks off Sept. 11 at the Borgata Hotel, Casino and Spa's Event Center in Atlantic City.
“We’re really, really, really excited," Santana said. "It feels like somebody grabbed your head and put it inside a swimming pool and you’ve been holding your breath, and now you’re able to come out for some air.”
The launch of the tour will follow the resumption of Santana's long-running residency at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, which has new dates starting Aug. 25.
Next summer is booked up for him, too, thanks to a 30-date Miraculous Supernatural 2022 Tour with Earth, Wind and Fire hitting the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel on Aug. 14 and the BB&T Pavilion in Camden on Aug. 18.
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Santana, and his audience, are ready to welcome back live music in a big way.
“That’s because it’s a spirit," Santana said. "It’s not a profession, it’s not a job, it’s not a this or that. It’s a way of life, and it’s a way of life where spirit is able to elevate the listener to a place beyond fear.
"The two things that are really, really bad for people are not feeling worthy and being with fear ... And so when musicians play, they elevate people into a place like liberators, like letting the hamster out of that cage.”
Before he gets back on stage, Santana is giving fans a fresh look at his work over the last two decades with the just-announced compilation, "Splendiferous Santana," a playlist available for streaming starting Friday, July 2.
Picking up after Santana's 1998 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the titanic success of his nine-Grammy-winning, 30-million-copies-selling 1999 LP "Supernatural," "Splendiferous Santana" is a comprehensive, 30-track set to bring listeners up to date, with the newest songs drawn from his 2019 "Africa Speaks" album.
While Santana's half-century and counting of material has plenty of depth and breadth, he explained the through line that unites it all.
“The connection’s always been, since the beginning, since the very first Santana album (in 1969) until I do the last one and I check out, it’s always about African music," he said. "It's always the components, ingredients and nutrients (and) rhythms of African music. And that’s what Santana is: melody, rhythm and songs. (It’s) electric guitar, Hammond organ, congas, timbales, drums, songs.”
Santana also tells us he's "just about finished" with a new album, "Blessings and Miracles."
“We’re putting the final touches on it, and I’m so happy to tell you that I haven’t felt this kind of bubbles in my stomach and in my heart and in my mind, effervescent, since ‘Supernatural,’ " Santana said. "Because the music that is being presented to me, I can tell you in all honesty that it’s been orchestrated outside of me doing it. It’s been (a situation where) I just wake up and walk into a room and I say, ‘OK.’ ”
Santana's collaborators this time around are set to include fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Steve Winwood of Traffic and Kirk Hammett of Metallica, as well as Mark Osegueda of metal outfit Death Angel. Country singer/songwriter Chris Stapleton wrote a new song for the album.
“We covered a lot of ground," Santana said of "Blessings and Miracles," adding that he feels "really grateful because we’re consistent with our portfolio and Rolodex being really wide and expansive. I’m not a one-trick pony, you know.”
He even reunites with Rob Thomas, singer of the "Supernatural" smash single "Smooth," for "Move." “It’s delicious, it’s incredible,” Santana said of the collaboration.
“Miracles and blessings just keep coming in,” Santana said — hence the name of the upcoming album and tour. “They’re outside of the realm of possibilities. You can’t bottle them up or encapsulate them. It’s like the wind, you can’t grab it but you can feel it."
But, he said another title would have been appropriate, too: " ‘Priceless’ — because you can’t buy how God orchestrates people to bring you like (concert promoter) Bill Graham and (music executive) Clive Davis and (jazz legend) Miles Davis.
“All my life, I've been been brought into a position, a place, where I get to learn from everyone from Jerry Garcia (of the Grateful Dead) to (guitarist) John McLaughlin. And for me, it’s just about staying with a mind open, like a 7-year-old. Just know that you still have purity and innocence, you still know how to go into the unknown and unpredictability. And, more important, you can be 73 years old and still be relevant. How about that?”
Alex Biese has been writing about art, entertainment, culture and news on a local and national level for more than 15 years.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Carlos Santana: New music, 'Splendiferous' playlist and upcoming tour