MANSFIELD -- Ever since he was encouraged to play by Jerry Garcia, Carlos Santana has gone on to be the Latin rocker who most bears watching. He's toured through thick and thin, through Grammy highs and lows, but he's now giving some encouragement of his own. He brought new Latin sensations Los Lonely Boys on tour this summer -- and they combined last night for some of the hottest playing of the season.
Santana and his 11-piece band were smoking along nicely before approximately 10,000 fans at the Tweeter Center, but then the energy level shot up to almost surreal proportions when Los Lonely Boys -- consisting of the three Garza brothers, Henry, JoJo, and Ringo -- came out to perform John Lee Hooker's signature blues riffs. The moment allowed Santana to pay tribute to both Hooker (calling him ''the Dalai Lama of boogie") and to Los Lonely Boys, who didn't squander their moment but pushed Santana & Co. for all they were worth.
Henry Garza, who clearly owes a debt to Texas blues-rocker Stevie Ray Vaughan (apparent in the Boys' well-received opening set), fired up the song, but Santana took it over the top. The two traded solos as the crowd roared, then Santana pushed drummer Ringo Garza to break out of a generic pattern and start following his improvised guitar melody. Ringo was all smiles as Santana took him to new heights in the process. A quick lesson from a jam master.
Los Lonely Boys stayed out for the accelerating new track ''I Don't Want to Lose Your Love," which will be on Santana's next CD, ''All That I Am," expected in September with further guest shots from Mary J. Blige and Buddy Guy.
Santana's elevated mood was discerned early when he opened with the classic ''Jingo," accented by his two-man horn section and veteran timbales player Karl Perazzo. The group went on to mix Spanish and English songs seamlessly (with singer Andy Vargas handling his own on hit ''Maria Maria"), and another new track, ''Brown Skin Girl," was a winner. Santana also spoke rapturously about personal matters, advising fans to ''visit the center of your heart" and telling them that world peace is possible in our lifetime. Deadline pressure caused me to miss the end of the show, but the night was both a nonstop party and a striking spiritual experience.