It was old-school versus new-school in a battle of Latin Rock generations at the sold-out Anaheim Pond on Friday. The third of four co-headlining shows paired original Woodstock veteran Carlos Santana and his band with Mana — the current Rock en Espanol kings — and the clear winner was the diverse audience, treated to a long and rewarding evening of uplifting cross-cultural music.
Following a triumphant opening performance by L.A.’s eclectic Ozomatli — which consummated with the band’s traditional drum parade into and through the cheering audience — the anticipation in the air was palpable for Guadalajara’s Mana, an entirely unremarkable rock outfit that’s all the rage in Latin music circles.
Long-haired frontman Fher Gonzalez sang (in Spanish) about love, life and liberty, while his three bandmates produced a string of mostly simplistic songs that, sung in English, surely would have appealed to Bon Jovi and Journey fans back in the ’80s.
Mana (which alternates set slots each night with Santana during their month-long tour of the U.S. Southwest and West) easily won over the crowd with an energetic and infectious approach that had the fans up front screaming for their favorite members, namely guitarist Segio Vallin and drummer Alex Gonzalez, both of whom scored bouquets of flowers from enraptured females.
Nearly everyone in attendance seemed to know the words to all the songs, the best of which were the sweeping ballad and big radio hit “Como Questa” and a tune whose title translates into “I Don’t Care,” which the fans responded to by throwing panties and hats onto the stage.
Visionary guitarist-composer Carlos Santana didn’t play his usual hits-filled set, but instead took advantage of the many talented musicians on hand and the open-minded audience, while offering a dramatic lesson in grace and imagination.
The opening trio of songs, notably old favorite “Everybody’s Everything,” featured the always-festive Ozomatli horn section. The 90-minute production featured a host of Santana’s more obscure, jam-oriented material that gave room for all the talented players to shine, though each song ultimately rose and fell on the beautiful tones and breathtaking leads and solos from Mr. Santana’s six strings.
Show closed with a pair of classics, the newly arranged “Black Magic Woman” and a party version of “Oye Como Va” that nearly had Santana in tears, as he told the audience that, “This has been the best tour of my whole life.”
During Ozomatli’s opening turn, the venue’s mostly Latino food and beverage workers held a brief union-organized work stoppage to air complaints of low pay and poor working conditions, shutting down, for a time, most of the concession stands.
Mana plays a sold-out show at Universal Amphitheatre on Sept. 23; Santana will be at the Hollywood Bowl on October 3.